2 Nov 2018

Adesanya ready to shine at MSG

1:14 pm on 2 November 2018

Israel Adesanya is yet to be commissioned for his Mona Lisa moment.

New Zealand UFC middleweight fighter Israel Adesanya.

New Zealand UFC middleweight fighter Israel Adesanya. Photo: Andrew Cornaga/Photosport

But this weekend, in arguably sport's greatest gallery, the New Zealand mixed martial artist fully intends to prove his particular kind of artistry deserves a shot at a UFC title.

Ranked ninth in the middleweight division with the world's biggest mixed martial arts promotion, on Sunday (NZ time) Adesanya faces sixth-ranked American Derek Brunson at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York.

The UFC 230 main card bout offers the Aucklander a chance to extend his record with the company to four wins from four fights, in the process extending his professional MMA record to 15 from 15.

It also presents Adesanya with an opportunity to go from rising star, to bonafide contender for the belt.

Despite coming up against a fighter in Brunson who has nine UFC wins and is three spots higher up the rankings, the uber-confident Nigerian-born Kiwi had no doubt that transition would be completed.

"I see it going my way, however I want it to go," Adesanya told RNZ from The Big Apple this week.

"I can make him do whatever I want to do. I want to make him make the mistakes I want, then capitalise instantly.

"I'm ready man, I honestly can't wait. He's the perfect guy to showcase my skills against.

"He's the canvas, I'm the artist and I'm going to paint all over him."

Adesanya goes for a head kick to Rob Wilkinson at UFC 221

Adesanya goes for a head kick to Rob Wilkinson at UFC 221 Photo: Photosport Ltd 2018 www.photosport.nz

Adesanya's crystal ball also affords a clear prediction on how the fight will end.

After stopping Rob Wilkinson on UFC debut in February, the cerebral sometimes southpaw, sometimes orthodox striking specialist has needed the judges' decision for his last two victories.

While chalking up a knockout is not his focus, as evidenced by his brutal dissection of tough eighth-ranked Hawaiian veteran Brad Tavares in July, Adesanya said that is exactly the fate Brunson was about to suffer.

"People get caught up in whole idea of a finish.

"Don't get me wrong, I've been finishing guys, I've had 12 KOs in my MMA career.

"But people don't understand …. like my last fight was a showcase, I smashed the guy completely, from round to round, from bell to bell and he couldn't do anything.

"If you understand what's really happening with the skill set then you'll appreciate the work I'm putting through, but the casual fan just wants to see a finish.

"I'm out here working, smashing these guys [but] Saturday night with his style and my style I'm definitely going to get a finish.

"I guarantee it, you can put the house on it."

Israel Adesanya is as comfortable in front of a mic, as he is in the middle of a octagon.

Israel Adesanya is as comfortable in front of a mic, as he is in the middle of a octagon. Photo: Photosport

It is a bold statement Adesanya makes with full faith not only in his skills, but his mental fortitude and ability to perform under the bright lights of the biggest stage the sport has to offer.

Having visualised himself in this very position for years, the 29-year-old said he is the taking all the demands of his ever-increasing star power in his stride.

A trip to Madison Square Garden earlier this week, to watch a NBA basketball game, only steeled his "super relaxed and calm" state of mind.

"I already know in my head this is how it's supposed to happen, how it's supposed to be …. I'm not scared or spooked or startled.

"A lot of people in this situation would get flustered or couldn't handle it, they would fold under this kind of pressure.

"Not me. Pressure makes diamonds, and I'm shining baby."

Shine bright enough on Sunday, and Adesanya could well rocket himself into the title conversation.

As far as he's concerned, he's already there.

And in preparation for the situations, and his rivals, falling in his favour, Adesanya is already stoking the fires for a shot at the middleweight belt against New Zealand-born Australian title holder Robert Whittaker within the next 12 months.

"I mean, there's always been that trans-Tasman rivalry.

"It started off with pavlova …..they claimed they made, we claimed we made it and even now when I got signed to the UFC, [Australia] was trying to claim me.

"Aussies are always trying to claim Kiwis. They already claimed a former Kiwi, if you will, in Robert Whittaker who is a mozzie (Maori Australian).

"I'm the all black. If you look at me, my skin is black, my style is dark. I'm the all black and he's a little wallaby.

"I'm going to drag him over to Spark Arena (in Auckland) sometime next year, if he can keep that belt, and I'll smash that belt off him in front of my people."

Now there's a potential masterpiece New Zealand fight fans would be queuing up to see.