CAPE TOWN – It was Joe Rogan who best described Israel Adesanya’s fighting style in the Octagon.
“He fights differently as a mixed martial artist fighter than he did as a kickboxer in terms of his stance selection he almost fights like he is in a karate movie sometimes. He does things differently and he is constantly learning and adding to his arsenal,” said the American personality and fight analyst.
Israel (17-0) is certainly something out of a movie. From the moonbag, to the comb in the hair, to the shorts the former kickboxing master rocks at press conferences.
Then, of course, everybody loves an exciting fighter who can almost flow like a butterfly.
The interim middleweight champion is looking to earn his Oscar award this weekend as he aims to unify the division’s belt against current champion, Robert Whittaker (21-4) in Melbourne, Australia at UFC243 on Sunday morning.
Israel - also known as The Last Stylebender on account of his unorthodox and athletic nature claimed the interim belt in a five-round war with Kelvin Gastelum earlier this year.
It was a fight that really showed what Israel was made of as he had dealt with the adversity of going to war with a brawler with a huge gas tank.
“That’s true; it made people look at me and see that I’m not just any other fighter. So far, that was my toughest fight physically. It was a good gut-check. It’s different under the lights; a real soul-checking moment,” says Israel.
The interim status was initiated due to Robert - a New Zealand-born Australian - dealing with some injuries which has seen him out of the game for a long time.
But this weekend, Robert is back in the Octagon to defend his belt in a much-anticipated bout that is expected to see the Marvel Stadium house 50 000 fight fans.
“I am in the best shape I’ve been in a long time on fire,” says Isreal. “I’m just looking forward to showing off this weekend.”
Israel and Robert have contrasting styles, with Israel being the more flowing and finesse fighter in comparison to Robert who has a strong, tough and powerful approach.
“I see him coming fast at me,” says Israel.
Asked what qualities Whittaker brings to the fight, Israel spoke of his awkwardness: “But I’m awkward too.
“I am just going to flow and adapt and roll with it, I don’t think he is in this one for the long game because he knows the longer the fight goes the better I get.
“I can too get a very fast start as well. I just can’t wait to show him what I am about and I am so grateful to be in this position right now,” adds the Nigerian-New Zealander.
UFC boss Dana White went so far as to claim that this weekend’s event will be the biggest event in UFC history, although it’s not something that is dwelling on Israel’s mind.
“I’ve never had a boring fight in my life. The way I fight is smart, I have the X-factor ... I’m able to show off,” Israel says. “The main thing is I’m looking forward to going through those doors and having fun. When I’m having fun, I’m the best fighter in the world.”
As ever, he will do so as both an African fighter and a proud representative of New Zealand.
“I’ve got Africa stamped on my chest. My skin is black. You’ll always know where I’m from,” Israel says.
Crossing to Australia for the live action takes place at 4am on Sunday morning (SS11).