After demolishing Paulo Costa to defend his UFC middleweight title in September 2020, Israel Adesanya turned his attention to Jared Cannonier.
It was a simple call out.
"He's the one I want to fight next."
It wasn't his next fight, but now he will get his wish. The Herald can confirm Adesanya will put his title on the line against the hard-hitting American at UFC 276 on July 3, headlining one of the biggest cards on the UFC calendar.
Since the Costa fight, Adesanya had an unsuccessful bid to take the light heavyweight crown against then-champion Jan Blachowicz, before taking rematches against Marvin Vettori and Robert Whittaker back at middleweight – winning both by unanimous decision. Adesanya has stressed his desire for new blood challenging his throne in recent years, and in Cannonier he gets just that.
Jared Cannonier earned his title shot with an impressive win over Derek Brunson at UFC 271. Photo / Getty Images
Cannonier has one of the more remarkable tenures in his UFC career since signing with the promotion in 2015 as a heavyweight. He only took two fights in the division – a win and a loss – before moving down to light heavyweight in late 2016. Two years later he dropped down once more, settling in at middleweight and posting a 5-1 record in the weight class with four wins by knockout. His only loss was a unanimous decision defeat to Whittaker.
The 38-year-old was the first UFC athlete to claim wins by knockout in three different weight classes, which Conor McGregor has since matched.
The matchup shapes up as a dream for fans of striking battles, with both Adesanya and Cannonier preferring to do their work on the feet.
It will be a full house for the City Kickboxing stable at the event, with UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski meeting former champion Max Holloway in the co-main event.
Volkanovski, who trains primarily out of Freestyle Fighting Gym in Sydney but works with the team from Auckland's City Kickboxing as well, already holds two wins over Holloway, but with the durable Hawaiian clearly the the top contender, the pair will meet for a third time.
The bouts are among several big fights booked for the card. Fan favourite bantamweight Sean O'Malley will take on Pedro Munhoz, action-heavy welterweights Robbie Lawler and Bryan Barberena will meet, while middleweight Alex Pereira – who holds two wins over Adesanya in the kickboxing arena including a highlight-reel knockout – will take on top-5 contender Sean Strickland. Many believe the winner of that bout will earn the next shot at the middleweight strap.
The card will be the main attraction of the UFC's annual International Fight Week celebrations – a week which includes the promotion's Hall of Fame festivities and several other activations for fans and athletes to enjoy.
Confirmed UFC 276 bouts(full order yet to be confirmed)
Middleweight championship: Israel Adesanya (c) v Jared Cannonier
Featherweight championship: Alexander Volkanovski (c) v Max Holloway
Middleweight: Sean Strickland v Alex Periera
Bantamweight: Pedro Munhoz v Sean Strickland
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler v Bryan Barberena
Middleweight: Uriah Hall v Andre Muniz
Bantamweight: Jessica-Rose Clark v Julia Stoliarenko
Middleweight: Brad Tavares v Dricus du Plessis
Flyweight: Jessica Eye v Maycee Barber
Flyweight: Lauren Murphy v Miesha Tate
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you