Kiwi Israel Adesanya’s profile has gone to another level, after his second-round demolition of Paulo Costa to defend his UFC middleweight title on Sunday.
The win broke all sorts of records, and prompted UFC boss Dana White to label Adesanya the next big superstar of the sport.
But some believe he’s already there, including teammate UFC lightweight star Dan Hooker.
“The next big thing is not quite right,” Hooker tells Newshub. “I think he is the big thing.”
It’s not just because of his ability in the Octagon. Adesanya’s effusive personality has already made him one of the sport’s most marketable and recognisable athletes.
Last week, he became the first MMA fighter in the world to sign a deal with sporting apparel giants Puma. He’s also one of two fighters on the cover of EA Sports’ UFC game.
“For the UFC, he’s the number one guy,” Hooker insists.
“He can speak on the mic, he can promote the fight. But not only that, when he gets in there he gets the job done.”
Irishman Conor McGregor used to be that guy, but even the build-up to Adesanya’s fight against Paulo Costa set new records.
“Their stare down was the biggest stare down ever, the most viewed ever in UFC history,” White confirms. “It beat Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and Conor [McGregor] by 1.5 million, when the show started.”
While there’s an argument Adesanya’s already the best outside the cage, he wants to be the best inside as well.
Brazilian great Anderson Silva – who Adesanya beat last year – defended the middleweight belt a record ten times. This was Adesanya’s second.
Having now beaten seven of the top 15 fighters in his division, ‘The Last Stylebender’ has no doubt he can beat that mark if he wants.
“I’m not trying to repeat because there’ll never be another Anderson Silva,” Adesanya says. “For me, it’s just being me.
“Being the last and the only ‘Stylebender’.”
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