Israel Adesanya: I Had More Hype Than Conor McGregor Before His UFC Debut

By Tristen Critchfield Feb 10, 2018

If you didn’t know already, Israel Adesanya is a confident sort.

The 28-year-old Nigerian improved to 12-0 in his professional career at UFC 221, as he cruised past Rob Wilkinson in a second-round TKO victory in a preliminary middleweight contest in Perth, Australia on Saturday night.

Adesanya, who also owns a 50-5 record as a kickboxer and a 5-1 mark as a boxer, has the makings of a star in the UFC thanks to an entertaining style. Prior to his Octagon debut, “The Last Style Bender” gained some notoriety for a first-round stoppage of UFC and Bellator veteran Melvin Guillard at Australian Fighting Championship on July 28. While Guillard has competed most of his career at lightweight, Wilkinson was a true middleweight and figured to be a better test.

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Don’t tell that to Adesanya, who delivered on the hype that preceded him. And he wasn’t afraid to make a comparison to the biggest star in the Las Vegas-based promotion today.

“The pressure has been the same since the jump, since 2008 when I started fighting,” Adesanya said. “After my first fight, people were like, ‘Wow, look out for this guy,’ and it’s been growing, following me.

“Pretty sure I had more hype than Conor [McGregor] before he jumped in UFC. Now people know who I am and it’s time to work.”

Adesanya still has some work to do before he reaches the upper echelon at middleweight, but the flamboyant striker claims that his rise has been a long time coming.

“This isn’t my first rodeo. I’m used to this. I’ve been watching the UFC for a long time,” he said. “I know how this works. I’ve prepped, visualized all this and it’s happening now. I just need to roll with it. I ran toward this fight. It’s been a long time. It’s not an eight-week training camp. It’s been an eight-year training camp." 

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