Next up for world middleweight champion Israel Adesnaya is a title defense against Paulo Costa at UFC 253 on Sept. 26 at a location still to be determined.
Athletes are products in their own right. While winning in the octagon is the first priority for any mixed martial artist, building their brand is just as vital a component to their success when they step beyond the cage.
Simply look at the presence of Conor McGregor in pop culture. He’s entered the octagon once in nearly two years, yet you won’t find a bigger or more recognizable name in the entire sport.
Perhaps that’s why Adesanya is already busying himself with the task of planning a future beyond the Costa bout. He’s looking beyond this fight to see which are the matches he can make that will do the most to fortify his reputation and build his brand.
Adesanya, 31, is already plotting two or three bouts down the road as he looks to assemble a resume of success in his weight class.
Already, Adesanya, known in the industry as The Last Stylebender, is 19-0 in MMA.
His run of success includes victories over Derek Brunson and Anderson Silva. He decisioned Kelvin Gastelum to earn the interim UFC world middleweight title belt. In a title unification bout, he knocked out UFC world middleweight champ Robert Whittaker to claim the full crown.
Having been there and done that, perhaps it’s no surprise then that Adesanya isn’t intrigued by a rematch with former champion Whittaker.
“I hope [Jared] Cannonier beats Robert [Whittaker], cause I want a new body,” Adesanya told Submission Radio. That fight is scheduled to take place On October 24, 2020 at UFC 254.
Adesanya’s preference for next up after Costa is Darren Till.
“Jack Hermansson, I don’t really mind too much,” Adesanya said. “But I’d like Darren to get that one done, but he didn’t really get it done against Robert.”
Whittaker scored a unanimous decision over Till as part of the UFC on ESPN 14 card on July 26. Till is slated to fight Hermansson on Dec. 5.
“It was a good fight, close fight, but I think maybe the takedowns gave it to Robert,” Adesanya assessed of the Whittaker-Till bout. “Who knows? But yeah, the Jack Hermansson and Darren Till fight, I don’t really mind.”
The middleweight division is certainly among the most competitive in the promotion. While Till dropped to 2-3 over his last five bouts via his loss to Whittaker, Hermansson scored a first-round submission victory over Gastelum.
He’s jumped to No. 5 in the division rankings, while Till slid to the sixth spot among the contenders. Adesanya is listed at No. 4 in the UFC pound-for-pound rankings.
“I hope Cannonier whoops his ass, so I can . . . I want to fight that guy, I like him,” Adesanya said of his hopes for the Cannonier-Whittaker bout.
“Same with Darren. But also Jack Hermansson I’d like to fight, but I really want to fight Darren one day in the O2 or in Wimbledon.
“That would be a good excuse to go to England. Go sip some tea and crumpets.
“[Till and I] haven’t talked in a little bit, but we’re cool. I mean, we know the game. Like, Darren’s a guy, I’m not gonna act like we got beef, when it’s time to fight I will embarrass him.
“Yeah. But right now, he’s cool and I’m cool. We’re cool. Yeah.”
Taking Costa Too Lightly?
Amidst all of this talk about plotting for his future, it’s a fair question to be posed as to whether Adesanya is approaching the present with a bit of a cavalier attitude. You have to admire his level of confidence that he’ll take care of Costa at UFC 253 but shouldn’t taking care of Costa be his priority at the moment?
Adesanye even hinted that he believes Costa to be a steroid user.
“He couldn’t give me a straight answer, put it that way,” Adesanya claimed. “And I told him, I got tested twice in the last three weeks.
“I just like bringing that up because I want it to be known, because I said on record, I’m gonna pop him before USADA pops him.”