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UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya insists his rivalry with Paulo Henrique Costa is nothing personal.
In fact, he claims that his UFC 253 opponent is doing the majority of the work when it comes to manufacturing animosity leading up to Saturday’s headling bout on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi.
“If you look at it, you can really ask yourself, who’s been doing the trash talking? Who’s been the one posting stupid memes? They’re not even that creative. Who’s been the one posting videos and putting the effort into trying to create something?” Adesanya asked during UFC 253 media day. “I just said I don’t like the guy because I don’t like his vibe, I don’t like the way he looks. I’m honest about it. He’s always trying to create something, the reason why he doesn’t like me. He doesn’t really have anything.
“It’s never personal. It is what it is. The difference is I get to settle it with him this weekend.”
Adesanya has quickly emerged as a star in the Las Vegas-based promotion, but his ascent slowed somewhat in his last outing at UFC 248, where he took a tepid five-round verdict over Yoel Romero. “The Last Stylebender” nonetheless believes he has the potential to trascend the sport, and an impressive win over the also-unbeaten Costa could propel him to new heights.
“The last fight was supposed to [take me to the next level]. The last fight was the big one because of the buildup,” Adesanya said. “I feel like I needed a valley in my story. That was my valley and now it’s time to rise again. This is going to shoot me into the next stratosphere.”
That said, Adesanya isn’t buying into the Costa hype. Though a matchup of undefeated fighters in a championship headliner is rare in UFC competition, the Nigerian-born Kiwi points out that he has already been in big moments: a “Fight of the Year” clash with Kelvin Gastelum and an attendance record breaker against Robert Whittaker.
“I think the muscles fool everyone,” Adesanya said of Costa. “The muscles and the whole flurries and fighting punching bags fool everyone. Everyone thinks, ‘Wow this is a big fight.’ I’m like, ‘Nah.’ I’ve already had the fight of the middleweight division, which was Kelvin Gastelum. I’ve already had the biggest fight in the middleweight division crowd-wise, which was Robert Whittaker.
“I’m gonna make it look easy. A lot of people are gonna be shocked by that.”
If Adesanya takes care of business as he plans, he has his eyes on Jared Cannonier, who is set to square off against Whittaker at UFC 254 next month.
“He’s been the dark horse of the division,” Adesanya said. “I look forward to challenges like that. Me and my coaches have had an eye on him for a while.”
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