Israel Adesanya found out just how difficult it is to become a two-division champion in the UFC.
His bid to become the fifth simultaneous champ-champ in promotion history came up short in the UFC 259 headliner, as he dropped a unanimous decision to reigning 205-pound king Jan Blachowicz at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Not only was Adesanya denied another piece of championship hardware, but the possibility of a lucrative grudge match with Jon Jones has diminished considerably – at least for now.
“Listen, he’s the middleweight champion. He doesn’t get the light heavyweight title, he doesn’t get Jon Jones,” UFC president Dana White said at Saturday’s post-fight press conference. “But you know what, you never hurt somebody for trying to be big and trying to become great. He gave it a shot tonight, and it didn’t happen. And Jan is the man. He is the 205-pound champ, and now he starts taking on all comers in the division.
“Size is always a factor when you move up a weight class in this sport. The double champ thing, it’s like the thing to do right now, but it isn’t easy to do. The people who have done it are absolutely, positively special.”
Thus far, the only fighters to become double champ in the UFC are Conor McGregor, Amanda Nunes, Daniel Cormier and Henry Cejudo. At the moment, Adesanya seems content to return to his own division and focus on defending the 185-pound belt. He won’t rule out a return to light heavyweight, however.
“You’ll see me back at 205 later in the future, but right now I’ve got a division I’ve got to dominate,” Adesanya said. “I know they’re probably thinking, ‘Oh, that’s it. He just got taken down.’ All right, cool. But I’ll remind them again why I’m the king at 185.”
Jones, meanwhile, is currently working toward a heavyweight transition. Considering how Adesanya struggled with the wrestling and top control of Blachowicz, White thinks it’s probably a good thing that the Nigerian-born Kiwi didn’t get a chance to square off against the former 205-pound champ.
“Jon Jones used to be at that weight class,” White said. “Jon’s going to be so much bigger than Israel. I think Israel should focus on middleweight right now. Get back in there and keep doing what he does in the middleweight division.”
Lost amid all the double-champ hoopla was the fact that Adesanya also suffered his first professional loss in 21 bouts. The City Kickboxing standout is taking it all in stride.
“Losses are part of life, and losses are something I deal with occasionally,” Adesanya said. “Just this is my first one in MMA, but as they say, it is what it is.
“If I was going to lose to anyone, what better guy to lose to than a guy like Jan. A classy champion. A cool dude. A very nice guy. A guy who has a great story himself. On his way to getting cut from the company, comes back and then dominates, becomes light heavyweight champion and then hands this guy, a future legend, his first loss. If I’m going to lose to anyone, I’m glad I lost to him.”