Adesanya lines up next opponent for UFC title defence

February 15, 2022
Israel Adesanya.

Fresh out of the octagon after defending his middleweight crown once again, Kiwi UFC champ Israel Adesanya appears to already be lining up his next fight.

Adesanya took down Robert Whittaker on Sunday via unanimous decision after their rematch went the distance at UFC 271 but has quickly turned his attention to another fighter who was on his undercard.

Third-ranked middleweight Jared Cannonier turned heads in Houston after he knocked out No.4 fighter Derek Brunson in the second round of their fight, leaving an impact on the Nigerian-born champion.

"He made a statement," Adesanya said of Cannonier.

"I told him after the weigh-ins; I said 'look, please take this guy out so I can get some fresh meat' … and I'm a man of my word."

Cannonier is the only fighter in the top five of the UFC's middleweight ranks yet to fight Adesanya after his first push for the title was stopped in 2020 with a loss to Robert Whittaker.

However Cannonier's win on Sunday was enough in Adesanya's eyes to earn him a shot at the current champ.

"I like fresh meat at middleweight and I'm glad I have a new contender in Jared Cannonier," he said.

"I'm thinking June for that one."

Adesanya's comments contrast what commentators were saying after his rematch with Whittaker with many pundits calling for him to take another shot at the light heavyweight division due to his utter dominance of the middleweight class.

Adesanya made a move to the heavier class last year when he lost to division champ Jan Blachowicz - his first career defeat - via unanimous decision.

Despite the result, reporters like Brian Campbell for CBS Sports said Adesanya needs to push himself in the sport.

“Adesanya left little doubt as to who is still the best middleweight in the world. But even though a potential new challenger might have emerged on this night (in Cannonier), ‘The Last Stylebender’ is slowly running out of options in his own division,” Campbell wrote.

“Staying put at 185 pounds could net Adesanya enough title defences to crawl closer in the history books to Anderson Silva's legacy. But the best way Adesanya can close ground on the GOAT ahead of him is to consider a second run at the light-heavyweight title.

“Adesanya was competitive in his decision loss to former champion Jan Blachowicz last year and he remains so far ahead of his peers at middleweight that, at age 32, this might be the best time for Adesanya to begin a dedicated move north to maximise his opportunities."

Adesanya said after his win he'd look at a return to light heavyweight but wasn't in a rush.

"Later on, down the track," Adesanya said.


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