UFC Middleweight Champion, Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya defends his belt against Yoel Romero this Saturday at UFC 248. The outspoken former b-boy is now a dual ambassador for his Nigerian roots and New Zealand upbringing.
However, he has already taken over America and is facing his biggest challenge yet under the bright lights of Las Vegas. We spoke to the champ ahead of his epic battle.
Talk about your meteoric rise in the UFC. The fans seem to have chosen you very quickly.
Israel Adesanya: I’m about 11 or 12 months ahead of schedule but I don’t mind. I’m exactly where we need to be.
Most Americans are learning a lot about New Zealand through you. What is it like being like a New Zealand Ambassador?
I’m Nigerian born but raised in New Zealand through my teenage years. That is my culture. Not even just New Zealand, like worldwide there’s a lot of culture’s I touch base with just based on the media. If I like something I adopt it. I’m not really one of those people who shies away from other culture’s or other experiences. I’m a man a lot of people can relate to because I’m Mr. Worldwide.
Why Yoel Romero when so many don’t want to fight this boogeyman of the middleweight division?
Because I’m that guy who when people are running away from someone, I’m like, ‘why are you running away? Let em see.’ Plus I’ve seen the guy be human so I’m not scared of him. I like a challenge, I like to test myself and he’s a formidable opponent so I want to really test myself against him.
Talk about being a b-boy and dancer, in general, turned mixed martial artist.
I think dancing and fighting have a lot of correlation with their timing, distance, creativity, and other attributes. So for me being a dancer, even with krump, its a very unorthodox style of dance that requires a lot of energy. When you’re a teenager dancing a hundred rounds a night, 20 rounds in a weekend, it builds your cardio base up. There’s a quote I read once that said, ‘never give a sword to a man who can’t dance’ and I can dance.
What do you think of the new cult of personality fighters that are selling out of ring charisma more than athleticism?
I like it. Like Henry Cejudo, Colby (Covington), even Jorge (Masvidal), they are showing who they are. People wonder if it fake but I don’t think its fake. People are who they are, complex and they have different personalities. You meet Jorge and he’s nice to you but if you’re fighting him then this goon comes out. Same with Henry Cejudo, he’s a nice guy but if you’re fighting him then he starts to roast or troll you. People who don’t like it can f*ck off.
What are you listening to right now to stay motivated, train and in general?
Right now I like “Welcome Home” by The Game. Roddy Ricch “Ballin”. It depends on how I’m feeling that day. Sometimes it can be “Me, Myself, & I” by Beyonce or “Stricken” by Disturbed. It just depends.
Why will you be successful at UFC 248 this weekend against Yoel Romero?
Because I’m well prepared and I’m bringing a different puzzle that Yoel Romero has never seen before, I can guarantee you that.