UFC middleweight champion of the world Israel Adesanya is ready to play the starring role at UFC 276 as he puts his 185-pound title on the line against hard-hitting challenger Jared Cannonier.
“The Last Stylebender” has become one of the sport’s biggest stars as he has swiftly ascended the middleweight division, captured the title, and cemented his position with a quartet of championship defences.
Now he’s all set to face Cannonier, a fighter he earmarked as a potential title challenger long before he had been installed as a contender in the UFC rankings.
Speaking to the press at UFC 276 media day at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Adesanya revealed the qualities he spotted in his newest title rival.
“His spirit, if I’m being honest,” he began.
“His fighting spirit and his essence, and I recognise that because I’m an empath myself, so I can kind of feel the energy from a great, great man and a great fighter.
“But yeah, I’d like to take care of these guys. You know me. I call on all the greats. And I saw that in him early on, before all you guys did, and I tried to boost him up. He fell short once and then came back and yeah, proved his worth as the next contender.”
Cannonier’s route to the title is a unique one. He entered the UFC as a heavyweight, then eventually moved down the weight divisions, to light heavyweight, then eventually to middleweight, where he established himself as a legitimate contender with a string of impressive performances.
But when asked about the challenges he presents, Adesanya said “The Killa Gorilla” won’t be springing any surprises on fight night.
“I feel like he poses a danger the same way all my past opponents posed, you know?” he explained.
“Dangerous threats, but they keep talking about ‘power, power, power.’ Have you ever heard that before when someone fights me? ‘Oh, this power, power, power!’
“That’s the same old song, you know, f**king get it off repeat. Give me a new song. I’m just glad I have a new blood to fight in this fight. So yeah, that’s timely.”
Adesanya was in good form as he answered questions from the press with his usual sharp wit and candour. That good form, he said, will extend to the octagon on fight night as he prepares to put on a show for the fans on Saturday night in the main attraction of the sport’s biggest week of the year, UFC International Fight Week.
“This is big, bro,” he said.
“This is like for me this feels like the Super Bowl, Wrestlemania, that type of big.
“So, yeah. I’m just gonna show off and show out. It’s what I do.”