Israel Adesanya & The Fitting Acquisition Of The ‘Double Champ’ Status
By James Lee
UFC 259 sees the popular “double champ” trend continue, as Israel Adesanya strives to become just the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two championship titles concurrently. Yet, as most acquire that seemingly-coveted status unjustly, the New Zealand fighter offers a refreshing tone as to what a “double champion” should be.
Simply, it should be a champion who has dominated their respective primary division and now aspires for success elsewhere, while their acquired throne shapes another contender to return back for.
Perhaps if this initial sentiment was adhered to, the allure of the “double champion” status would have been upheld. Instead, it has become an overused marketing ploy to attract more pay-per-view buys, with little thought for the future.
Consequently, and upon the claiming of a title, some fighters attempt to do everything but defend their title. The notable increase in monetary gain has heightened consequences, making the defence of a title unworthy of the limited time in the spotlight. Therefore, fighters seek challenges elsewhere, and the “double champion” notion provides the perfect outlet to do that.
Thus, only Amanda Nunes can say she has followed the subjectively suitable guidelines after she won the featherweight title following vast and long-standing success at bantamweight.
Contrastingly, that cannot be said for the others to have held two titles. Conor McGregor did not defend his featherweight title once before claiming the lightweight title. Daniel Cormier beat Stipe Miocic for the heavyweight title shortly after losing and then regaining his light-heavyweight title upon Jon Jones’ failed performance-enhancing-drug test. Henry Cejudo defended his flyweight title just once before fighting for the bantamweight title, and TJ Dillashaw likewise defended his title once before unsuccessfully challenging for the flyweight title.
It should be noted that the achievement is incredibly noteworthy regardless, but something is different about the way Adesanya will have realised the status if he is successful on Saturday. Not just that any viable challenge presently is one he has already conquered, but the way he has done it left little doubt.
As the likes of Robert Whittaker, Paulo Costa, Derek Brunson, Marvin Vettori, and Kelvin Gastelum all operate around the top ten of the middleweight division, he has beaten them all. Even those ranked highly have recently lost to somebody Adesanya has beaten. Robert Whittaker remains the only possible contender, whom he concisely demolished to unify the middleweight division less than eighteen months ago.
Therefore, it is valid that he can continue his acquisition of greatness, by seeking another UFC title and becoming the first undefeated fighter to do so, before venturing back down to middleweight.
Crucially, if this attempt was all about notoriety, it would not be happening. Despite being champion, Jan Blachowicz lacks worldwide recognition, and it might have made more sense for him to fight the likes of Robert Whittaker and Darren Till if he cared only about popularity. Even Jon Jones. He cares solely about the sport and his legacy within it, however, which is a rarity in the modern game.
This refreshing outlook has become a theme of his career, as he provides a throwback to the earlier era of fighting anybody at any given moment while performing far beyond the modern era in terms of skill set.
Thus, and as he draws from a path widely sought after, Adesanya is doing it differently, and more honestly it could be said. As others acquire further championship success to escape the hardship of defending a title, Adesanya is seeking additional gold to add challenge and pressure.
Consequently, it reaffirms the existing sentiment that he has everything necessary to become the most poignant athlete to ever compete inside the eight-sided combat arena. His striking is already alongside some of the best in history, but that sentiment to fight anybody could be the separating factor between him and the rest currently occupying that status summit.
UFC 259 presents no easy challenge, though. Maybe even his most difficult challenge yet. But one that will be legacy-defining for all the right reasons providing it is a triumphant venture.