Israel Adesanya has admitted he broke down in tears backstage after UFC 276 despite having emerged victorious via unanimous decision against Jared Cannonier to successfully defend his middleweight title for the 5th time.
Though he won, Adesanya had come under fire for what was perceived as a less than stellar performance that delivered few of the fireworks that he had promised pre-fight, and he admits that not matching up to his own high-standards left him in emotional state.
“I don’t hold onto things,” Adesanya said on The MMA Hour show. “I let myself feel them. People try to deny things and block it, if you fight your emotions they’ll get you later on. So I feel it.
“I cried backstage. Me and [coach] Eugene [Bareman] hugged it out and he told me, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.’ I was like, ‘Just give me a bourbon, I’ll be fine.’ So I expressed it, feel it, and I let it go. It’s a good way to release emotions… it relaxes you. It’s just a normal human function, I don’t know why we shame it.”
“[I was] upset at myself for what I wanted to do,” Adesanya continued. “People mistake it. This is not about other people. This is about me. I did the Undertaker walkout and I had this Miyamoto Musashi mentality like I’m going to make him wait, because I don’t think it’s going to last long. Then I get there and I’m a little bit frustrated during the fight trying to figure out how to take this guy. I’ve said it many times, his corner, wow, MMA Lab beautiful, because they saved him. They’d see things I was setting up and call it and I’m just like, ‘F***, OK, they can see that coming.’ So they saved him a lot and he’s a good student for listening to them as well.
“For me, it was just the pressure I put on myself because it was International Fight Week, I’m like, ‘Damn, I want to f****** take this to the next level after I smoke this guy.’ And I felt like I didn’t smoke this guy, but I beat him quite easily. Easily. So for me, it’s the expectations I put on myself, that’s what.”
That’s all in the past now though as Adesanya gets ready to face his next challenge on Saturday night at UFC 281 in New York City as he seeks to avenge two losses to Alex Pereira in the kickboxing arena several years ago when they lock horns in the main event of the evening.