The Rarity of Adesanya’s Title Ambitions
By James Lee
There is no doubt the sport of mixed martial arts has changed in an instrumental sense since its early beginnings. As violent tendencies formed the initial identity of the sport, the current landscape awards those with a higher level of skill, but with the essence of unpredictability a necessity.
This weekend’s Las Vegas main event showcases the most appealing figurehead for that currently in the sport and a fighter who best depicts an alluring icon.
Israel Adesanya is a real life game console character. A striking presence with the precision of a marksman whose composure in definitive moments is unmatched. His concise demolition of Robert Whittaker last October was unexpected, but as has everything so far in his career.
As the path usually throws up what most would deem uncompromisable challenges, the Nigerian eases past them. Just a small but insignificant blip in Atlanta was quickly rectified by a left hand in Melbourne.
Saturday’s bout personifies a good, but unfamiliar phase in the sport where fighting ability is the only thing that matters.
The current landscape of the sport places monetary gain at the front of priorities, and maybe rightfully so, but it is negative for the community, as those who reach the championship are always looking for the next step straight away.
Defending the belt isn’t enough anymore. A fight with a fellow champion or a fight that will make them the most comes first. It is hard to blame those pursuing that, but many watching the sport have become frustrated because of it. Most noticeably, Henry Cejudo and Tyron Woodley are both disliked, mainly because of their lack of willingness to face those deserving and instead seek those who they will feel will draw the most attention.
Perhaps that is why women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko is so well thought of in the sport. She is almost an anomaly, being a champion so dominant that her inside-the-cage antics is all that amounts attention.
Notably, with patience, her global status will grow. The current middleweight champion has already amassed mainstream attention, but crucially, his desire to completely rule over his selected division could build him into a combat legend before he eventually seeks challenges above him like he has outlined.
So as he draws from a path rarely sought after, his stature continues to grow. Yoel Romero is usually the first name most avoid, but the champion called for it, even convincing those matchmaking who weren’t completely enamoured by the idea.
Adesanya’s striking could be one of the best we have ever seen in history, but Romero is the unassuming, long-time challenger who many have tipped as being the division’s best for years, despite never touching gold.
The interest for the contest comes from the fact that anything could happen and nobody can gauge what will. It would be assumed that Adesanya has the edge in the striking element, but as with Romero, his style is reserved but dangerous at the same time.
Although traditionally thought as a wrestler, the Cuban’s striking has proved difficult to deal with for all his fellow fighters to date.
Most importantly, a win will provide Adesanya the right, albeit controversially, to call himself the best in the world and perhaps the best in the division’s history.
Anderson Silva held a heavy reign over the middleweight division for a large portion of its entirety, but a new chapter, seemingly of excellence, has begun. Silva’s time has passed and Adesanya is free to prove himself as the best middleweight of all time against a plethora of the most talented in the sport that are lining up in sync.
So as he prepares to take on the sport’s most dreaded asset this weekend, he can only be praised for his willingness. In a sporting climate where challenges like this are passed on and not actively sought after, Adesanya is different.
He is a different breed that has everything necessary to become the most successful combat athlete of all time; a feat so distant, yet so rarely fitting for a fighter like it is for him.