ZB

Has Adesanya already found his next opponent?

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Feb 2022, 10:03am
Israel Adesanya has set his sights on a new contender. (Photo / Photosport)
Israel Adesanya has set his sights on a new contender. (Photo / Photosport)

Has Adesanya already found his next opponent?

Author
Christopher Reive, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 15 Feb 2022, 10:03am

In Israel Adesanya's hunt for fresh meat, he hasn't had to look too far to find it. 

With his UFC middleweight title defence over Robert Whittaker barely in the rear-view mirror, Adesanya has already signalled his next move inside the octagon. 

After laying down something of a challenge to middleweight contender Jared Cannonier this week, Adesanya is now hopeful of meeting the American powerhouse sometime in the middle of the year. 

Adesanya had previously indicated his desire to fight Cannonier, naming him as a possible contender after his defence over Paulo Costa in late 2020. However, Cannonier had his charge to a title shot derailed by Whittaker late that year. 

But fighting on the same card as Adesanya's rematch with Whittaker – a unanimous decision win for Adesanya - on Sunday at UFC 271 in Houston, Cannonier answered the call. 

In what shaped up as a title eliminator in the division, Cannonier stopped Derek Brunson in the second round before making sure UFC boss Dana White knew who was next in line for a shot at the throne. 

"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." 

It would be the most exciting prospect for Adesanya to be booked against a fighter he is yet to face in the division, with his last two bouts being rematches, and a potential third rematch on the horizon had Brunson gotten the better of Cannonier. 

However, with Cannonier getting the job done, Adesanya will likely get to meet the only man in the top five of the division he has yet to beat. 

So, while some had questioned whether Adesanya would seek another shot at moving up and challenging for the light heavyweight title, the Kiwi champion said while he planned to do so again, that wasn't what was next for him. 

"Later on, down the track," Adesanya said of moving up to light heavyweight again. "But right now, I like fresh meat at middleweight and I'm glad I have a new contender in Jared Cannonier. 

"I'm thinking June for that one." 

Adesanya has often spoken about wanting to be more active, and a bout in June would open the door to at least one fight in the second half of the year, if not more. 

However, for the time being, Adesanya was set to embark on a media tour around the United States as he and his team from Auckland's City Kickboxing gym again find themselves locked out of the country. 

Adesanya wasn't the only Kiwi on the card at UFC 271, with light heavyweight Carlos Ulberg getting his first win inside the UFC octagon and welterweight Blood Diamond making his UFC debut, albeit unsuccessfully. 

With the freeze on MIQ spots, the group cannot return until at least the end of the month, if they were to travel through Australia, or mid-March when the borders open to New Zealanders around the world wanting to return home.