Biography And Career Trajectory Of Israel Adesanya – A Unique Mixed Martial Artist

Israel Adesanya, a Nigerian-New Zealander mixed martial artist and former kickboxer is a unique fighter for a handful of reasons. He is considered a rangy, technical striker with a penchant for highlight-reel knockouts irrespective of the fact that he has only had a few bouts in the highest fighting franchise, Ultimate Fighting Championship. Adesanya is currently fighting in the Middleweight division of the UFC and is already being compared to some of the finest fighters in the octagon like Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. Also, he has risen through the ranks with #6 middleweight worldwide in kickboxing in October 2017 and #9 in the official UFC middleweight rankings as of July 26, 2018. 1.

He was born on July 22, 1989, in Lagos, Nigeria. His background has been traced to the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. Named Israel Mobolaji Adesanya after his birth, his Nigerian-born parents would move their family to Rotorua and then, Whanganui, New Zealand in 2011 from where his combat sports career took its sail. His middle name, Mobolaji means born into wealth.

He attended Chrisland School, Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos, and then Bells Secondary School, Ota. Though he was not athletically inclined then, he loved dancing and was very great at it. The art also conferred some popularity on him when he moved to NZ but he never took it further than having fun at it. However, the martial arts class started and a career therein set. He credits MMA with helping him stay focused, cool and calm and for taking him around the world – for free.

While he was a boy, Adesanya trained in taekwondo for a short time. During that period, their household items were endangered as they had to face the wrath of his fist and feet during practice. Although his mother didn't mind the broken items, she couldn't have it when her beloved son broke his arm. Following the incident, she removed him from training. Seven years after the family settled in New Zealand, Israel went back to training; this time, it wasn't taekwondo but kickboxing. His new interest was inspired by Ong Bak, the Muay Thai film he watched when he was 18. He continued in the stand-up combat sports and amassed a professional record of 32-0. During that period also, he had the most titles in King in the Ring history with 3 and was the Glory 34: Denver - Middleweight Contender Tournament Champion.

He made his professional debut in 2012. Over the next five and a half years of his career, he fought in New Zealand, Australia and China and amassed a record of 11-0 with all wins coming via TKO stoppage and within the second round.

Then the time came for him to tread higher grounds and taste deeper waters. Israel Adesanya signed with the UFC in December 2017. He became the fifth New Zealander currently in the UFC along with Mark Hunt, Dan Hooker, Luke Jumeau and Shane Young. Following his signing, he made his octagon debut against Australian middleweight Rob Wilkinson on February 11, 2018, at UFC 221 and went on to score the victory via TKO in the second round. The win also earned him the Performance of the Night bonus and paved the way for his winning streaks.

Next, he faced Marvin Vettori on April 14, 2018, and won the bout via split decision. Then came the biggest event of his career so far, a matchup with Brad Tavares in The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale on July 6, 2018. Despite being a decorated kickboxer, many feared that he would have a tough time being that he is somewhat untested as a mixed martial artist. Nevertheless, he allayed all fears and clinched the victory via unanimous decision. He also won the Performance of the Night award thus establishing him as the next UFC prospect. His win also took him to the Top 10 ranking positing him at #9 in the official UFC middleweight rankings. With a record of 14-0-0, he is set to face Derek Brunson on November 3, 2018, at UFC 230.

The Kiwi Fighter Is true to his moniker

Israel Adesanya has a sweet pseudonym, The Last Stylebender which he coined from the TV show, Avatar. He felt he could relate to the power of the Avatar who mastered the control of the four elements of fire, water, air and earth. Like his superhero, even though he doesn't know how the game is going, he believes he has to master all the elements of martial arts to realise his destiny. True to that, The Last Stylebender has remained undefeated through 14 MMA bouts. He is a great blend of precision striking and speed moulded into a lengthy frame, with the kind of fleet of foot crafted by years of dance.

Despite being transplanted from his root prior to debuting into teenage, Israel Adesanya has remained very much in touch with his Nigerian root and stays in touch with home every possible way he can. He has ‘Broken Native’ tattooed across his chest coupled with a large map of Africa wherein he outlined Nigeria. The body arts serves as a reminder of his cultural heritage.

To further elucidate his point, he addresses his fellow countrymen in his native tongue, Yoruba at the UFC’s 25th Anniversary Press Conference in Los Angeles after his landmark career win against Tavares. He did that not only to identify with other Nigerians but as a way to let them in on what he is doing as well as to introduce the game to them. The speech went viral in Nigeria not long afterwards on social media alongside him.

15 April 2020
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