Historically, the UFC hasn’t been known as the most diversity accepted combat sporting organization. With fighters like Colby Covington pushing the MAGA mantra around proudly it can feel downright vanilla in the Octagon.
However, current UFC middleweight champion, Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya is breaking that mold. In fact, he has already shattered it by simply being himself.
A Nigerian born, New Zealand raised krump dancer turned MMA fighter is not your typical UFC storyline. He walks around with a pick with a black fist sticking from his low-top fade and he is as confident as Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
Tonight at UFC 248, he defends his title against arguably the most feared man in the division in Yoel Romero. The 42-year old Cuban freestyle wrestling phenom is known for flying knee knockouts and tremendous power. But Adesanya wanted the challenge to signal to the world he ain’t ever scared.
He also wants MMA to spread to his home continent and country and feels he is pushing the sport there.
“100% This is a time where its being introduced properly to Africa and to Nigeria,” said Adesanya. “A lot of people are starting to pick up speed with whats happening on this side of the world.”
When Kamaru Usman defeated Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 last March, the UFC received its first African born champion. Usman is also Nigerian. Then in the next month at UFC 236, Adesanya defeated Kelvin Gastelum to become the UFC’s second African born champion. Usman was in attendance and the two embraced at their accomplishment.
“You have two Nigerian born world champions in the UFC and at the same time that speaks volumes to our DNA, to our warrior race, you know. I see them, when I went back I see them taking that on board.
“Like a lot of them stayed up until 4:00am to watch us fight due to the time difference. I want to be like that, when I fight the whole country shuts down even at 4:00am and after there’s a parade in the streets until 12pm midday or until the next day. I really want that for my people.”
Tonight, Adesanya makes his first title defense against a true threat. But to his point, as a warrior from fighting DNA, it is what he is supposed to do.