Nigerian-born mixed martial arts fighter, Israel Adesanya has disclosed that he had to show the Mexican mentality of his latest opponent in order top get victory on Saturday, as he beat Kelvin Gastelum to claim the Interim UFC Middleweight Championship by unanimous decision.
Adesanya, who is a citizen of New Zealand, outlasted Gastelum in what has been tagged a monumental battle at Ultimate Fighting Challenge (UFC), with a unanimous decision by scores of 48-46 on all three judges’ cards, completing a meteoric 14-month rise for him into the top class.
He grew up idolizing Anderson Silva, and the UFC middleweight did a lot of Silva-like things in his bout with Kelvin Gastelum for the interim title Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 236 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Adesanya created his own legacy with a brilliant performance in which he had to dig down deeper than he had at any point in his career, as the win was his sixth in just 14 months in the UFC.
It was also by far the biggest and most significant for Adesanya, after a titanic struggle in which the men laid their souls bare and went after the victory with every ounce of strength and desire that was inside of them.
At a point, they were both on the ground, battling each other to the jugular, then bleeding and sweating profusely by the time it ended.
The fight was even on all three scorecards heading to the fifth, and Adesanya won it with an incredible striking display.
He nearly finished the bout with a triangle choke in one of the many “I can’t believe that!” moments that occurred throughout the fight.
Adesanya won the round 10-8 on all three judges’ cards that cinched the belt and probably into the lead for Mythical Fight of The Year honour.
Gastelum, who gave up seven inches in height and more than eight in reach, did everything he said he’d do and his reach disadvantage forced him to wade into the pocket, as he pressured Adesanya all through.
He gave as good as he got throughout the bout and had plenty guts, but Adesanya’s short rights took their toll, as he dumped Gastelum multiple times in the fifth and nearly stopped him in the final 30 seconds.
Adesanya improved to 17-0 as professional and 6-0 in the UFC, while Gastelum (15-4, 1 NC) loses for just the second time since moving up to the middleweight division.
Israel Mobolaji Adesanya was born in Lagos on 22 July 1989, where he grew up and started training in taekwondo for a brief time in his youth but was removed by his mother after breaking his arm.
At the age of 13, he moved to Rotorua, New Zealand, where he attended Rotorua Intermediate School, and started training in kickboxing at age 18 after being inspired by the Muay Thai film Ong-Bak.
He went on to amass an amateur kickboxing record of 32-0 prior to moving and fighting in China, but is also a professional mixed martial artist and boxer.
At the age of 21, Adesanya relocated to Auckland, New Zealand, and began training at City Kickboxing Centre, with other established fighters like Kai Kara-France and Dan Hooker.
He made his pro debut in 2012, then fought in Hong Kong, Australia and China over the next five-and-half years, amassing a mark of 11-0, with all wins coming via KO/TKO prior to being signed by UFC in December 2017.
Up next, Adesanya faces undisputed champ, Robert Whittaker, in what many expect to be his toughest bout yet, but his post-fight talk served an indication that he is ready to show he is top dog at 185 pounds.
Adesanya disclosed: “I was willing to give it all and leave it all in there. He’s a Mexican warrior, but hey, I’ve got that Mexicano in me, too. I’m the champion. Let’s go.”