UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is one of the best strikers in the promotion today. But don’t be fooled — he very much has a ground game.
In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani, Adesanya spoke of why he made the transition from kickboxing to mixed martial arts (MMA). “The Last Stylebender” feels it’s easier to become a champion in boxing but when it comes to a real fight, boxers will struggle against wrestlers and jiu-jitsu practitioners.
That’s why Adesanya wanted to hone the craft of fighting in all aspects:
“If you want to fight, I could have done the same thing,” Adesanya said of boxing (via MMA Mania). “I could have done boxing and do the blueprint; fight some journeymen, some bums, fight a local champions, climb the ranks, build your record up and then fight the world champion and get a belt. I could have done that in kickboxing, but I know in my heart, my soul, if I faced up against a guy with a different style, a judo guy, jiu-jitsu guy in the streets…who’s going to break it up in the clinch? They’re throwing leg kicks at me and if I don’t know how to check a leg kick, what’s going to happen?
“I never want to feel vulnerable in any situation. I never want to feel like any man can checkmate me in any position. So I have to humble myself and go back to the drawing board and learn and study and hone your craft of fighting in all aspects.”
We have seen many aspects of Adesanya’s game since his debut in 2018. However, fans are yet to see him truly tested on the ground.
But according to him, that’s only because he hasn’t been taken there yet as he has a few surprises in store once he eventually does:
“You haven’t even seen my ground game yet, just bits and pieces,” he added. “You haven’t seen my top game. Khabib [Nurmagomedov] isn’t the only who can maul people.”
What do you make of Adesanya’s comments?