2018 has been a remarkable year for Israel Adesanya. He’s made his UFC debut in February and has already fought four times in the promotion, earning four wins and three performance of the night bonuses. He’s on the cusp of a middleweight title shot despite having only focused on MMA for three years and he’s (spoiler alert) a lock for Breakout Fighter of the Year. All of that has earned him the biggest opportunity of his MMA career, a fight with middleweight GOAT Anderson Silva at UFC 234.
It’s a fight with title implications on the line but it is also a fight steeped in controversy. Since its announcement, fans and media have been debating the merits of putting Silva, a 43 year old legend in the sport who is has only won one of his last six fights, against the hottest, most violent prospect in the sport. Coming on the heels of watching another legend – Chuck Liddell – come out of retirement to get obliterated in one of the most depressing moments in recent MMA history, some fans are concerned that this fight is similar. But Adesanya isn’t among them.
Speaking with Submission Radio recently, Adesanya addressed the criticism surrounding his fight with “The Spider,” saying that he doesn’t believe Silva is as shopworn as Liddell and that Anderson just hasn’t been that interested recently.
“People who aren’t in my shoes (don’t understand),” Adesanya said. “Look, he’s not Chuck Liddell. Don’t get me wrong, because of that being so recent people were like, ‘oh, how dare you, he’s 43’. Look, last time he was finished was when he broke his leg. He hasn’t been losing badly. He beat Derek Brunson. That was a close fight, I guess, but yeah, I think he’s just been bored.”
Bored or not, Silva has not performed well in the last few years. After losing his title to Weidman, and then shattering his leg in their rematch, Silva has been unable to regain the form that made his the greatest of all time. He still shows flashed of his old brilliance but has been unable to recapture the magic over a sustained period. Adesanya thinks he’s the fighter to bring that back out of Silva, even if Silva wasn’t all that interested in accepting the fight in the first place.
“Initially I was disappointed (because he turned the fight down),” Adesanya said. “I was like, man, this is a guy who liked the big challenges, the great show. As he used to say, ‘I want great show,’ you know. And then he said no to me. I said, man, maybe he doesn’t have it anymore. And then he came back last Sunday, yup, I wanna do it. I’m like, they must have made him an offer he can’t refuse, and instantly I knew it was like, title shot. I was like, alright then. But I like to think it’s me.
“I feel like I’m the guy. Cause, you know, he said one time to Joe Rogan, ‘I want to fight my clone,’ and I’m better than his clone. I’ve studied everything he’s done, every single thing. I know some of him better than he knows himself, whether he likes to believe it or not, cause I’m on the outside looking in. And yeah, I just want to believe, I want to be the guy that brings the best out of him. You’re gonna see a different Anderson, Anderson of old, if you will. Anderson that teeped Vitor Belfort in the face and had me run to my room all, ‘ahhhhh, what the f*ck’. Yeah, I want to bring that guy back. So yeah, he back.”
If Adesanya’s words prove premonitory, MMA fans could be in fro an all-time classic fight. That what “The Stylebender” wants anyway.
“I’m gonna steal the show,” Adesanya concluded. “Look, this is the greatest middleweight of all time… and Anderson Silva going at it. What more could you want?”
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Who wins this weekend?
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