Undoubtedly one of the biggest promoters of MMA in Africa, the second UFC champion in the continent’s history has already defended his title five times. Brilliant, unrestrained and above all, dreaming of bringing the UFC back to Africa, Nigerian fighter Israel Adesanya is an icon.
He participates in dance competitions, but he is also the champion of kickboxing and English boxing, titled several times. Israel Adesanya, the “last style player” – understand, the “last elegant fighter” – is also a huge fan of Japanese anime, which he imitates, even when in France, one of his favorite characters.
Since April 13, 2019, Israel Adesanya has been the middleweight champion of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), Dana White’s prestigious Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) league. He defended his title five times and remains, nearly three years later, one of the longest-serving champions in UFC history.
In March 2021, Israel Adesanya tried to enter a new weight class. Then he lost his light heavyweight fight against Poland’s Jan Blasowicz. He had to return to his class and defend his title against Italian Marvin Vittori, and then against New Zealander Robert Whitaker. The results: two wins.
African dreams of Israel Adesanya
The Nigerian was living in New Zealand until he and teammate Dan Hooker were banned from fighting due to health measures in 2020. Israel Adesanya turned his back on Wellington at the time. “If they had threatened me with arrest, the excuse would have been that I’m too screaming or too loud or whatever. But when they did that to Dan, I realized it wasn’t about me anymore, it was about our sport,” Israel Adesanya said at the time.
Since then, Israel Adesanya’s goal has been to take the UFC to Africa. “We now have three African champions: Francis Ngannou, Osman and Israel Adesanya. Going to Africa will be a huge event in my career,” said Dana White, president of the organization and a huge fan of Adesanya.
Despite the delay in fulfilling this promise, Israel Adesanya is not giving up. “Fighting in Africa is a dream we have and it will come true. One way or another, willingly or unwillingly, we will make it happen.” confesses to the BBC.
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The Nigerian hero continues: “Last night, I saw graffiti of me painted on a wall in a village in Nigeria. The fact that someone took their time to paint me in their village is astonishing to me.”
While Cameroon’s undisputed heavyweight champion, Francis “The Predator” Nganu, made an impression during his encounter with the organization, and welterweight champion Kamaru “Nigerian Nightmare” Osman remains aloof, Israel Adesanya is certainly different from other African MMA champions.
Israel Adesanya is a striker, which is very common in his class. But he has mastered so many martial arts that one might wonder what is the secret behind his dedication to MMA. Taekwondo, English boxing, muay thai… Israel Adesanya is definitely full of talent. Her passion for dancing is inexplicable. Entering the ring or hexagram, he does some choreography that deserves to be a professional dancer. However, nothing could change his image as a fierce fighter.
“I like the fans to smile. I want it to be thought of. I want people to have good memories when they hear my name,” says Adesanya.
The hero also says that his love of fighting and animation kept him away from the trappings of fame. “I’ve seen the traps that a lot of famous athletes, actors, and musicians have fallen into, and I’ve seen how they got into them, so I avoided being just a folktale,” he says.
“Proud explorer. Freelance social media expert. Problem solver. Gamer. Extreme travel aficionado.”