Israel Adesanya is awaiting his next significant test with patience.
At UFC 287 this past April, the two-time UFC middleweight champion finally defeated his greatest opponent in combat sports, Alex Pereira. Adesanya defeated “Poatan” in round two of their fourth overall confrontation and MMA rematch after falling victim to a 0-3 score in favor of Pereira in kickboxing and MMA contests.
With the stunning knockout, Adesanya restored his 185-pound title, putting the Pereira controversy behind him — at least for the time being — while the former champion moves up to light heavyweight. At UFC 290 on July 8, the winner of the fight between Robert Whittaker and Dricus Du Plessis is anticipated to become the next middleweight title contender. Khamzat Chimaev, the top-ranked welterweight contender, has often hinted at both a return to 185 pounds and a desire to take on Adesanya. The aim of “The Last Stylebender” is still in a recently formed feud with Du Plessis, but he likes all of the possibilities.
“Trust me, I’m not scared of nobody on this f* planet. No one,” Adesanya said on IMPAULSIVE. “And also, guess what, I like a challenge. [Chimaev] presents something unique that — I’ve seen wrestlers before. It’s a big fight. That’s why I like that. Cheddar makes it better. But he’s got Kamaru [Usman] and after that is probably gonna go for the title [if he wins].
“I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’m gonna be there in July [for UFC 290] and I’mma see what’s up. Not with Rob, with Du Plessis.”
Although Dana White, the president of the UFC, has floated and referenced Usman vs. Chimaev, it is not yet confirmed. Both fighters have hinted that they are interested in teaming up. The weight class it would occur in would appear to be the only variable.
Chimaev is currently in limbo as a result of his enormous 7.5-pound weight cut before his final scheduled welterweight match against Nate Diaz in September. The mistake resulted in a full shuffle to the top of the deck, which ultimately helped “Borz” defeat Kevin Holland through d’arce choke in the opening round of their 180-pound catchweight contest. Chimaev had his sights set on Adesanya even before the weight controversy involving the unbeaten Chechen superstar began.
“He said some s*** in the past,” Adesanya said. “He always tweets after my fights anyway but I don’t respond to nonsense. Everyone does. I’m the champ. Even when Pereira took the belt, I was still the champ. I wasn’t the UFC champion, but they still called me champ on the streets because I’m me. I’m Israel Adesanya. I have that name, that target on my back no matter what and I said that even leading up to this last fight.”
“People were like, ‘Ah, do you feel the pressure has been taken off you now that you’ve lost the belt?’ I was like, nah. I’m still Israel Adesanya. I’m still ‘The Last Stylebender.’ They want to fight me because I’m one of the greatest in this game right now, and they want to have me on their mantle piece or that name like, ‘Yeah, I beat him’ or ‘I fought him.’”