14 Jun 2021

Adesanya pays tribute to Fau Vake after UFC win

7:53 am on 14 June 2021

Israel Adesanya has paid tribute to a fallen team-mate and reiterated a plea to the New Zealand government after the latest defence of his mixed martial arts world title.

Israel Adesanya celebrates his successful title defence against Marvin Vettori.

Israel Adesanya celebrates his successful title defence against Marvin Vettori. Photo: Photosport

Adesanya easily retained the UFC middleweight belt in Arizona on Sunday, winning all five rounds on all three scorecards in his rematch with Italian Marvin Vettori.

The win came just three weeks after team-mate Fau Vake was allegedly assaulted by four men in central Auckland, before dying of his injuries in hospital a week later.

And Vake was front of mind for Israel Adesanya in the moments immediately following his third successful world title defence.

"I just wanted to say, Fau Vake, Fau Vake, Fau Vake, I love you man.

"Willie, John, James, all the Vake fam (sic), Isa banana, all love, you know what we do. This fight I dedicate to you Fau."

As well as dedicating the victory to Vake, Adesanya used the moment to directly ask Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to reconsider tougher punishments for so-called "coward punches".

Four men have been charged with allegedly attacking the 25-year-old from behind in central Auckland.

But after already asking the government to go a step further, Adesanya reiterated those calls after Sunday's victory.

"Australia is ahead, they have created a really harsh penalty for people who blind shot people...

"Give them 20 years, standard, because that's assault with a deadly weapon.

Fau Vake

Fau Vake Photo: Instagram / Fau Vake

"I don't want to get angry and I don't want to get political but I expect better from the government of New Zealand.

"Jacinda ... you know it was wrong, you know exactly what to do. I don't know what puppet master is pulling the strings but you're the leader of the country."

Adesanya's team-mate Brad Riddell, who also fought on yesterday's card, also used victory to pay tribute to Vake.

After claiming a fourth straight UFC win, Riddell said there was no way he was losing his fight.

"I was never gonna lose this fight. I had a driving force that was bigger than me and I'm very, very grateful that I still get a walk on this planet.

"That walkout song might have seemed a little bit weird but that was [Fau's] walkout song so that was my tribute to his family.

"Unfortunately, he'll never get to make this walk. I miss you Fau, and I hope you're proud."

There's little doubt Vake would've been proud of both Riddell and Adesanya, who bounced back in style from his first loss in professional MMA.

After unsuccessfully jumping up to the light heavyweight division in an attempt to add a second world title in March, the 31-year-old said he paid no attention to those who said his aura of invincibility was gone.

"You're not as good as they say you are, you're not as bad as they say you are. All that matters is how you see yourself.

"Everyone's been telling me this week or saying this week on the internet, 'oh, he's gonna whip Vettori, he's gonna do this or do that.

"I don't listen to it. I just focus on myself, my team and my loved ones."

New Zealand UFC lightweight Brad Riddell.

New Zealand UFC lightweight Brad Riddell. Photo: Photosport

It was an approach which now had him in line for another rematch.

Adesanya wanted to fight Kiwi-born Australian Robert Whittaker next, the man he took the world title off two-and-a-half years ago.

UFC boss Dana White said that wish would be granted.

And while he was "highly doubtful" Adesanya would get his other wish of defending his belt on home soil, White didn't hold back in his praise for the middleweight champ.

"Adesanya looks unbelievable, man. He gets better every time he goes in there.

"He is definitely, without a doubt, the king of that division right now."

And the king had no intentions of sitting on his crown.

Wherever it happened, Adesanya wanted his rematch with Whittaker to come sooner rather than later.

"I don't wait around, you know me. This is my third fight in nine months.

"I don't talk about it, I just do it. I'm an active champion, so I don't like too much free time, especially right now when I'm in [my] prime."

Adesanya would spend some time in the US before returning to New Zealand, where he and Riddell said they would both have time in their two week quarantine to properly grieve the loss of their team-mate.