On a card filled with highlight-reel performances, no one’s stock rose higher than Israel Adesanya at UFC 230.
The multiple-time kickboxing champion put on a master class in striking as he battered Derek Brunson with barrage of blows en route to a violent first-round TKO victory inside Madison Square Garden in New York City.
It was the equivalent of a perfect game in baseball, as Adesanya dispatched his more experienced opponent with ease with the crowd erupting around him.
But according to “The Last Stylebender,” fight fans almost didn’t get a chance to witness his performance of a lifetime.
“I almost pulled out of this fight,” Adesanya revealed during the UFC 230 post-fight press conference. “Like literally three days, maybe two days away from pulling out of this fight. I was limping. You can ask Dan Hooker and people at my gym. I had the baddest — I’ll post the video so it makes sense. My knee was so inflamed.
“So shoutout to my dad. My dad was the smart one in this one. He said, ‘Take a week off.’ So we took a week off and we’ll see how we feel and then we’ll make the call. Within three days, my knee was getting better. Then I had a cortisone shot like four days later — I checked with USADA, the golden snitch, and they said, ‘Yeah it’s cool.’ Three days and it was already feeling better. Then I got back to the gym and started killing.”
With Brunson now out of the way, the New Zealand native plans to take time off to not only enjoy his first Christmas in two years, but also to fix whatever is plaguing his knee.
“I’m going to have to have surgery to take away whatever injury it was,” said Adesanya. “I’m going to take some time off and really enjoy myself and soak it all in, and I’m coming back stronger. So all of you middleweights, stay ready because I’ll be staying ready.”
However, just because Adesanya isn’t in camp, doesn’t mean he won’t be ready if the UFC calls with a fight offer, especially if it means serving as a backup for the upcoming middleweight title fight between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 234 in February.
“I’ve fought injured so many times for so many years,” said Adesanya. “I’m being a lot smarter and a lot more proactive. Also, I’m 29. I’m just about to hit my prime. When I was younger I’d fight with broken — I’m good at that. But I have to be smart now. This is the UFC. This is the big leagues.
“But I get itchy knuckles and itchy feet real quick if I sit around for too long. When I’m f*cking around on Instagram posting Spongebob and Squidward, I was so bored. I get really aggravated if I don’t train, if I don’t let that testosterone out. So I’ll see. Sometimes I get itchy feet and itchy knuckles. So, we’ll see what happens.”
If the 185-pound title fight isn’t available, who would the methodical Adesanya want to face next?
After Adesanya’s first choice, Chris Weidman, came up short against Ronaldo Souza in the night’s co-main event, “The Last Stylebender” said the only fight that makes sense is the “Trans-Tasman rivalry” against Australia’s Whittaker.
“You have ‘Jacare,’ who’s already lost to Kelvin and Robert. Who wants to see that again?” asked Adesanya. “Then you’ve got Jared (Cannonier), he did well tonight. I didn’t really see the fight, so I wan’t sure if it was a back-and-forth or an ass-whooping. But I know he did well tonight in the third round, but I got mine done in the first round, so I leapfrogged that. Then you have Yoel (Romero), he’s unreliable. Also, he missed weight. Yoel does’t make weight all of the time, so that’s unreliable. (Luke) Rockhold, he makes weight but also pulls out and is unreliable.
“If Robert wins [at UFC 234], it makes so much sense to do it Auckland in Spark Arena.”
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