Friday night was Israel Adesanya’s coming out party as a talent to watch in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight division.
The 28-year-old New Zealand-based Nigerian was impressive in “The Ultimate Fighter 27” headliner, as he ended the four-bout winning streak of Brad Tavares with a five-round unanimous verdict. “The Last Stylebender” shrugged off Tavares’ takedown attempts while battering his foe with a multi-faceted arsenal of punches, knees, kicks and elbows in the 25-minute affair.
The kickboxing specialist improved to 14-0 — 3-0 in the UFC — with the victory, and he claims his emergence didn’t just happen overnight.
“I’ve been a legit contender before I got in the UFC,” Adesanya said at the ‘TUF 27’ finale post-fight press conference. “I took my time, I didn’t just jump in. We took our time because we knew we were going to jump in the deep end at some point, so we’re ready to face the Top 5, Top 10 straight away. And I’m proving these people wrong. But also at the same time I’m always improving. I’m still learning. Three fights, six months. I put my foot on the gas and I’ve just been working.”
While it might still be a little while before he reaches the top of the middleweight division, Adesanya already envisions a championship clash that would have the New Zealand and Australia region buzzing.
“I told you guys. I already said it before my UFC debut. You’re going to see me and Robert Whittaker one day at Spark Arena in Auckland for the title,” Adesanya said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve seen this. All this, I’ve done it before.
“I visualized this fight when I was in the shower today, different scenarios and all that kind of thing, but Robert Whittaker, that’s going to come one day, guaranteed,” he added. “Even if it’s not for the title, but I think he’s going to keep that belt for a little while. He’s tough, he’s a smart kid, I think he’s going to keep that belt for a little while and I’ll come take it off him. Snatch it off him.”