By Temisan Amoye, Lagos
Nigerian born UFC superstar Israel Adesanya has spoken of his desire to introduce and popularize the mixed martial art sports in Nigeria.
Adesanya who is the current Middleweight Champion of The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made his intentions known when he was hosted on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. The Last Stylebender as he is popularly known said: ” I want to take the football out of their hands and show them some gloves”.
Israel Adesanya was born in Lagos, but moved with his parents to Ghana and finally settled in Rotorua, New Zealand at age 12.
The Auckland resident was asked about his September trip to Nigeria by his host and he said: “When I went back, I was trying to just chill lowkey, sneak into the country. But my dad said that couldn’t happen, they are watching you, everyone knows who you are”. “I didn’t realize, they stay up till 4 am to watch me and Kamaru (Usman) fight”
Adesanya also spoke of his desire to be as significant to Nigerians, as Manny Pacquiao is to Filipinos. ” I have always said I want to be the guy, like what Pacquiao was to the Philippines, the way when he fights, the whole country shuts down, crime drops and everything”.
The Last Stylebender discussed the impact Africans can have on the UFC, he said ” Not just Nigerians, the Africans. Once they start stepping in, it’s going to be like when 50 Cent dropped ‘In da club’. and killed the whole game for a while. Like honestly, I’m telling you, they are going to run the game for a long time, a long time. I am happy to be the guy that is paving the way”.
Israel Adesanya spoke of opening gyms to train and develop future prospects ” I really want to open a chain of gyms, doesn’t have to be UFC gyms, but they can get involved”.
The 30-year-old star also spoke about a potential UFC Africa fight, and mentioned Nigeria, Morocco, and South Africa as possible hosts. He also acknowledged the problem of bureaucratic red tape involved in setting up such events.
The undefeated Nigerian who holds a 6-0 record in the UFC, defeated Australian Robert Whitaker in a unification bout at UFC 243 on the 6th of October, 2019 to become the undisputed Middleweight Champion.
Other Nigerians making a name for themselves in the UFC include Kamaru “The Nigerian Nightmare” Usman who has a 10-0 record and Sodiq Yusuff who has a 3-0 record.
Thanks to a deal with African cable provider DStv, Nigerians now have access to live UFC events, giving Adesanya, Usman and Yusuff more exposure and support at home.