2019 was a massive year for Israel Adesanya. The Nigerian-born, New Zealand resident won the UFC middleweight title in style. First, he had the fight of the year against Kelvin Gastelum to win the interim belt. Then he knocked out Robert Whittaker inside two rounds to seal the championship.
Charismatic and incredibly exciting to watch, Adesanya is perfect for the UFC to get behind. This year could be even bigger for him as he sets his sight on defending his title. Superstardom is in reach. First of all, he has to beat the ever-young Yoel Romero. But there’s another name continuously being linked.
Jon Jones just can’t get Adesanya out of his head. The two champions appear to be on a collision course. Now Adesanya has spoken out about ‘Bones’ and explained why Jones needs him.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Adesanya explained that Jones needs him. He believes that he is in place to become one of the biggest stars in the organization. Jones is arguably the greatest MMA fighter of all time, but it’s fair to say he’s never achieved the mainstream superstardom he could have. That’s mostly his own fault. Adesanya said:
“I don’t need him. Actually, I’ll say he needs me if he wants to stay relevant. Because he’s already done a lot in his legacy that’s tainted by other things he’s done outside the ring. But for now to stay relevant, to stay current, he needs me. He can keep trying, but he’s got someone else to worry about right now this weekend with Dominick Reyes, so he better focus on that rather than focusing on me.”
‘The Last Stylebender’ also doesn’t think he needs to fight Jones to become a legend. He’s happy building his legacy by defending the title. In short, that’s exactly what he wants to do, starting with Romero.
“I don’t think I have to,” Adesanya said. “I could have done my next fight vs Jones if I wanted to, but this division has been held up for so long because the former champion was pulling out of fights, was sick, and was holding up the division.
So for me, I have to do right like the greats. Like Anderson Silva who defended 12 times, the greats like him. I want to do right by the division and defend my belt, so I’m saying if you want to come down and see me, come see me, but let me get my job done first.”
There is a whole host of killers coming through at middleweight right now. It arguably hasn’t been this exciting since Chris Weidman was champion. Then you had Rockhold, Bisping, Romero, and Jacare all in contention. But now there’s a new generation coming through. Except of course for the ageless Romero.
“I’ve got (Paulo) Costa, (Jared) Cannonier, Darren Till is a fresh new name,” Adesanya added. “If Kelvin can re-up and get back on the chopping block, he can get it, but there’s a few other guys that I want to get to – not have to, I want to get to. I want to defend my belt a few more times before I step up and fight someone like Jon Jones.”
Whatever he does, you won’t be able to blink. Adesanya has the ‘it’ factor that superstars need. But it’s going to be a brutal slog to keep hold of the 185 lb belt.