Despite Praise from Adesanya, Cannonier Refuses to Get Complacent Prior to UFC 254

By Tristen Critchfield Oct 21, 2020


Jared Cannonier heads into the UFC 254 co-main event as the man targeted by reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya as the No. 1 contender-in-waiting.

However, before “The Killa Gorilla” can get his title shot, he must first vanquish former title holder Robert Whittaker on Saturday at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi.

“I have all the respect for anybody who’s competing in this sport. If they respect, me I’m going to definitely reciprocate it,” Cannonier said at a virtual media event on Tuesday. “I’ve said it before, I’ve been a fan of Izzy before he was in the UFC. He definitely sees guys coming up doing their thing, and I guess I caught his attention. He vocalized that in front of the world and now the world is eating it up.

“But I’ve got fights ahead of me and I’m not really resting on my laurels based on what someone else says about me. I’m doing what I’ve got to do to make sure I get what I want.”

Adesanya mentioned Cannonier after vanquishing Paulo Henrique Costa in the UFC 253 headliner on Sept. 26. “The Last Stylebender” already defeated Whittaker to claim the 185-pound belt in 2019, so it appears that he is looking for a new challenge in the division.

“It’s good to be recogized by the champ, I suppose,” Cannonier said. “In front of me is Robert — everything else is a distraction.”

Whittaker also enters the matchup with some momentum. After losing his belt and having a nine-bout winning streak snapped by Adesanya at UFC 243, “The Reaper” returned to the win column with a five-round verdict over Darren Till at UFC on ESPN 14 on July 25.

It’s the second former champion Cannonier has faced after stopping Anderson Silva with a leg kick at UFC 237 in May 2019. Cannonier doesn’t put on opponent on a pedestal based on past accomplishments.

“When I fought Anderson, I told myself I’m not fighting a former champion, I’m fighting another man,” Cannonier said. “It’s gonna be the same thing when I fight Robert. I’m not gonna make him more special than what he is. He’s only a man. I’m only there to fight the man. I’m not there to fight the image or reputation or anything like that.”

Cannonier, who enters UFC 254 on a three-fight finishing streak, was supposed to compete at UFC 248 before a torn pectoral derailed those plans. Fortunately for him, his absence didn’t drop him in the middleweight pecking order.

“I’m excited and I’m happy to be in this position. This is where I was right before the injury happened and [I get to] pick up right where I left off,” he said. “I’m very fortunate to still be in this position and I’m ready to go get the job done.”

That said, Cannonier doesn’t feel any added pressure knowing that a victory assures him of a championship opportunity in the near future.

“It’s definitely motivating to know this win is gonna get me a title shot. That’s the whole goal of being in the UFC is to be the champion,” he said. “I’m not gonna put any extra pressure on me because it’s a contender’s fight. A fight is a fight. Every fight is a contender’s fight in my mind. I’m ready to get in there and go to work.”

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