Israel Adesanya’s camp is giving Sean Strickland “full respect” ahead of their UFC 293 showdown in Sydney.
Strickland was named as a short-notice opponent for Adesanya in the main event in Australia, which takes place on September 9. It was thought that the likely next challenge for Adesanya would be Dricus du Plessis, but with the South African contender ruled out through injury, Strickland got the call.
“I give him the maximum respect that you have to give someone who’s one of the top 10 fighters in the world in their weight division,” City Kickboxing head coach Eugene Bareman told Submission Radio.
“He has a very unique fighting style and some very unique gifts, and that’s what you have to have when you’re starting to separate yourself from the pack when you’re in the top ten. He has some unique gifts and some of the unique talents that we have to take care of, and I give him full respect. I give him full respect.”
Adesanya will head into the bout with Strickland as a big favorite with the oddsmakers, but Bareman said that there are no thoughts about that heading into the matchup, with the preparation remaining focused on the win, and combating the dangers that Strickland brings to the bout. Taking anyone for granted at this level, Bareman stated, could come back to haunt them.
“History proves if you start to take that attitude, these are the fights that come up and bite you in the ass,” Bareman stated.
“Real champions, real people who are the best in the world, they’re the best in the world because every time they step up to the plate and fight for that championship belt, they prepare themselves accordingly, no matter who the opponent is. And that’s what we do.
“I get a lot of inspiration from Floyd Mayweather and the way that he lived his life and his lifestyle, and the way that he approached each and every fight. You’re talking about a guy that was levels and levels above some of his competition. But mentally he never treated any of his opponents like he was much more gifted than they were. He treated them like they were his equal. And that they had a chance to beat him, and he prepared each and every time accordingly. And that’s what we do as well. We take that same philosophy that he had and we apply it to every single fight. So, it doesn’t matter who the opponent is, he gets the full respect. And we’re preparing for a very hard for this camp. And this camp hopefully prepares us for the next fight as well.”
The fight with Strickland may be a somewhat short-notice booking, with the bout only confirmed a little over one month from fight night in Sydney. But Bareman said that he and the Adesanya camp needs to be very wary of Strickland’s momentum having only just fought at the start of July.
“He’s coming off a fight camp, he’s coming off another fight. And a quick turnaround coming off another fight, that can be an advantage if you use it in the right way. And his team knows that,” Bareman offered.
“And he must have known and he’s got a smart team, he’s got a smart coach, and he must have known that potentially this might be on the cards. So, if he was smart, then he would have gotten into training straight away. Even if there was a five or 10 percent chance of them having a title shot. I mean, on a two percent chance people at this gym have trained and done a full camp.
“You just get yourself ready. If there’s an inkling or even a small chance, then you get yourself ready, and you might get the call up. If he’s smart, it’s not short notice. If he’s smart, he’s coming off the back of another camp and he went straight into another one, and he’s got an advantage in that respect.”
Strickland’s run towards a title shot was abruptly halted by Alex Pereira at UFC 276 in July 2022 as he hit a two-fight skid that slowed his momentum. He has bounced back since with two good victories to earn his shot, but Bareman said that his knockout loss to Pereira could prove to be a major plus for the American.
“I think the Pereira fight helped him a lot,” he suggested.
“I think he has to understand that the caliber of opposition that he’s entering the cage with. When you jump in the cage with these guys like Pereira and these Israel Adesanyas, that had 100 fights at the highest level. If you’re just looking at their UFC record and you’re just taking that into account and you’re not giving their abilities and their experience the full respect it deserves, like he perhaps did with Pereira, I think then you’re going to end up in a world of hurt.
“I think the best thing for Sean was going through that Pereira fight. Because I expect him to be a lot more disciplined against Israel, just because he’s gonna have more respect for the experience and the skillset.”
For some fans, the pre-fight press conference is almost as anticipated as the bout itself, as Strickland’s lack of filter is set to clash with Adesanya’s strong personality in front of the cameras, and the fans, ahead of their matchup. Bareman said he wasn’t worried about the interactions between the two, partly because some of the jibes he expects Strickland to hit Adesanya with are jokes he’s already made with the champion himself.
“A few things I’ve heard about Sean, I gotta be honest, they make me laugh,” he said.
“I’ll be honest, they’re the same things I give Israel s**t about already. Like, the painted nails and all the rest of it. It’s funny that Sean brings all this up. I already bring it up!
“What the bloke says is, sometimes he says some gross stuff, but, I mean, I’ve heard the bloke chatting and some of it’s just quite funny. The whole Chinese thing’s quite funny, I think. The China versus America thing, which I thought was quite funny.
“But it’s funny ’cause that’s not an insult to us, because we are very proud of what we did in China and we’re very proud of our ties with China and what they did for our career and us as a team. We’re very proud of it.
“We’re very proud that they chose us to represent them at one particular point in Israel’s career. So, it’s not really an insult to us. But yeah, a lot of stuff he says is funny. Some of it not so much, but yeah, I mean, if you get a smile or a laugh from me, then good on you.”
And, while the focus is firmly on Strickland, Bareman did have a word for du Plessis, who was thought to be the next contender, only for “Stillknocks” to declare himself unavailable for the September 9 event due to injury.
Many believe that du Plessis will be next for Adesanya if he’s successful at UFC 293, but Bareman is making no such assumptions.
“I don’t make that call. But the problem is, if you don’t step up and take fights, you go into the pool. That’s a fact,” he said.
“Nothing in this sport is solid until there’s something signed on the dotted line. If he’s got nothing signed on the dotted line, then he’s out there in the ether. He had a shot. He had a shot. It’s the same shot that many of my boys have had who have fought for titles or had titles.
“We’ve fought with horrific injuries, because you don’t take that lightly. And the problem with them is they’ve had an injury. And yeah, it’s been a bad injury. So what? You’ve taken your shot for granted. You think you’re going to get it again. But you don’t know what this machine does. You don’t know the UFC. You don’t know what they do. You don’t know how they twist and turn things.
“Never feel comfortable with where you are. If there’s something in front of you that you’ve been working for your whole life, don’t think for a minute that it can’t just be taken away, just like that. And he had it, and he let it slip. So, they can’t be sitting comfortable thinking that they’ve got the next shot. Because they don’t. Because I know this sport. The fact is they don’t. But they did. They never took it. And now they should not be sitting comfortable thinking they got the next shot. Because in this sport, it’s just not true.”