Israel Adesanya: Why the UFC Needs Stylebender Now More Than Ever Before

Since making his professional debut back in March 2012, Israel Adesanya has recorded 19 consecutive victories across numerous organisations. In taking the mixed martial arts world by storm, the Last Stylebender has fought his way to the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight title. As a result, the New Zealand-based competitor has arguably become the company’s most valuable asset. So, let’s take a look at Adesanya’s rapid rise to global stardom.

High-Level, Consistent Entertainment

Following his UFC debut against Rob Wilkinson, the Last Stylebender has been on an upward trajectory towards the top of the middleweight division. On his route to the sought-after belt, Adesanya has overcome former champions, including Anderson Silva and Robert Whittaker, as well as top contenders like Kelvin Gastelum and Yoel Romero.

Although the six-foot-four kickboxer’s UFC record shows only three finishes in eight fights, Adesanya’s decision bouts have been some of the organisation’s most entertaining contests. It’s a testament to his interim title bout with Gastelum that their five-round war was named as MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Year for 2019. Moreover, his decision victory over Silva will also live long in the memory for its high-level striking.

Unlike other of the UFC’s world-renowned stars, such as Conor McGregor and Jon Jones, Adesanya has fought consistently over the last few years. In 2018, Stylebender fought on four occasions, followed by a further three in 2019. In contrast, Jones competed just three times during the same period, while the Notorious entered the Octagon only twice.

Potential to Explore New Markets

From a business perspective, the emergence of Adesanya has enabled the UFC to diversify the locations of its events. Although the organization has hosted cards in New Zealand before, the popularity of Dan Hooker and Stylebender has helped to increase the sport’s appeal across the country.

While the 31-year-old is unlikely to fight on anything other than pay-per-view events in the near future, David Shaw, the UFC’s senior vice president, said that there’s a possibility that Auckland could host a high-magnitude bout in the coming years, as per a report at NZ Herald. In turn, this marketing could enable the UFC to tap into the country’s boxing fan base.

Despite suggestions from David Higgins, the Duco Events boss, that boxing in New Zealand isn’t threatened by the rise of MMA, there’s a belief that boxing is going through an image crisis. Because of this, challengers have emerged for the sport’s crown, most notably MMA. Even though boxing has long been the dominant combat practice, influential personalities have begun to gravitate towards MMA because of its showbiz acceptance.

On Track to Become the Middleweight GOAT

As the saying goes, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best. Ultimately, that’s what Adesanya has done so far. Although Silva isn’t the finishing force that he was in his prime, Stylebender’s victory over the Spider symbolized a changing of the guard at middleweight. With time on his side, the 31-year-old could become the greatest fighter that the UFC’s 185-pound division has ever seen.

Written by Lucy