19 Aug 2020

Lockdown a boost for Adesanya's world title defence

7:14 pm on 19 August 2020

UFC star and New Zealand's Sportsman of the year Israel Adesanya has revealed how Auckland's Covid lockdown has been a blessing as he prepares for his middleweight title defence.

New Zealand UFC fighter Israel Adesanya.

Auckland-based UFC star Israel Adesanya. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The UFC champion is set to make history in his battle with another undefeated fighter, Brazilian Paulo Costa, in the main event at UFC 253, which is set down for 27 September.

It will be just the second time in UFC history that a pair of undefeated male fighters will meet for an undisputed title. Rashad Evans and Lyoto Machida met at UFC 98 in 2008 for the light heavyweight title.

Three of his team-mates from Adesanya's Auckland City Kickboxing gym Kai Kara-France, Brad Riddell and Shane Young will also be on the card - and for now they are staying in the same Covid bubble.

Speaking to reporters, Adesanya revealed that he and his team-mates are all training, eating and sleeping at the gym, which has become famous for its output of fighters.

"It's beautiful because right now we are all together, hotted up, locked down at the gym," said Adesanya, who was named Sportsman of the Year at New Zealand's Halberg awards in February.

The fighters are staying in the same bubble because Auckland is in Alert Level 3 lockdown to battle the spread of Covid-19.

"I can say as a fact, this is the best training camp, we've been having," said Adesanya, who has a 19-0 fight record in MMA.

"We are living the simple life; wake up in the gym, eat, train, have a nap, wake up, train again, shower with the boys, sleep.

"I have no responsibilities outside this, no directions, no obligations. Any obligations I just do over the phone or online - just focus on what I need to do. I have learned to say no to a whole lot of things.

"It throws it back to how it was in China; just the simple things. All I had in my mind was the pursuit of greatness. Even if the lockdown ends on Sunday, it's been a refresher."

Adesanya said there are around ten trainers and fighters in the City Kickboxing gym bubble.

There's been no venue confirmed for the much anticipated bout with Costa, but Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas have both been mooted.

Asked whether a smaller octagon in Las Vegas could blunt his free-flowing style, Adesanya was direct; "I don't know why people think this will be a factor. I am like: 'cool, I will fight wherever the fight takes place' - this is MMA, adaptability trumps - I am used to this."

He also dismissed suggestions that Costa could have a size advantage.

"That doesn't phase me. Never has, never will.

"This is martial arts, this is skill. Size makes a difference if you know how to use it and and are allowed to.

"But they are always surprised when they step into the cage across from me and they realise how long I am, my frame. And they feel me in the clinch and feel my strength. It is always a rude awakening."

Adesanya said he had been pushing for a fight with Costa (13-0) since defeating Brad Tavares in July 2018.

He said had approached UFC owner Dana White about fighting Costa, but was told to wait so UFC could build up both fighters.

"I said me and Costa are two rising forces in the UFC - and I initially called him out when I beat Brad Tavares."

Now the time has come.