Israel Adesanya on middleweight title picture after UFC 234: 'I'm the No. 1 contender'
MELBOURNE, Australia – Israel Adesanya is certain his next fight is going to be for the UFC middleweight title, even if he has to watch another championship bout play out first.
Adesanya (16-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) believes his unanimous decision victory over Anderson (34-9 MMA, 17-5 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 234 headliner should put him at the front of what had suddenly become a very messy queue to compete for the 185-pound belt.
Champ Robert Whittaker (20-4 MMA, 11-2 UFC) was supposed to defend against Kelvin Gastelum (16-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) on the card but was forced to withdraw just hours before the event got started due to a hernia issue that required “emergency surgery.”
Gastelum showed up at UFC 234 with a mock belt and declared himself the new champion, and Adesanya noticed. He said he’s not sure how everything is going to turn out with Whittaker’s timeline for return still a mystery, but he does know that the next time he steps in the octagon a piece of gold will be on the line.
“I’m the No. 1 contender,” Adesanya told reporters, including MMAjunkie, post-fight at UFC 234. “I’m the guy fighting for the belt. I don’t care. Kelvin or Rob, whoever it is I don’t care. Whoever has the belt. Cause I see Kelvin walking around with that belt and I don’t know who gave it to him. I’m fighting for the belt next that’s all I know. I did my job. I showed up to work.”
UFC 234 took place at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne, Australia. The main card aired on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and UFC Fight Pass.
Adesanya has put together a 16-fight winning streak to begin his MMA career, including five-straight in the UFC. His victory over Silva earned “Fight of the Night” honors, and Adesanya said it was the perfect way to put a bow on his first year with the organization.
The quick rise to stardom for Adesanya is something he predicted for his career. He felt he had the perfect road map to the belt, but Whittaker’s unforeseen withdrawal from the card has thrown a wrench into the works.
Adesanya said he’s taking it all in stride, though. He plans to take some time for himself in the coming weeks, and mentioned a potential return trip to Nigeria in March or April. He’s confident resolutions will be reached by then and everything will ultimately play out in his favor.
“I can afford to do what I want right now,” Adesanya said. “I can wait out for as long as I need to because I’ve done so much for the company. I’ve played my part and I’m the No. 1 contender. ‘Jacare’ (Souza) can fight Kelvin, or they already fight – get a rematch. I don’t care. I showed up to work, that’s all I know.”