UFC Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya received some criticism for his cautious performance at UFC 276 against Jared Cannonier, despite emerging with a unanimous decision victory, but after rewatching the fight himself, ‘The Last Stylebender’ is content with how he performed on the night.
“I rewatched it two days after the fight and I watched it once, that’s all I needed for now. I was just happy with the performance,” Adesanya said on his own YouTube channel. “I wasn’t ecstatic about the performance, but I was happy with it. It wasn’t what people were trying to make it out to be…
“I didn’t really take my foot off the gas too much. The only time I wasn’t able to was when he held me against the fence. I broke away when I needed to and kept on fighting, as soon as I broke away. I’d normally just keep on him straight away because I know he’s tired from holding me, because I could feel his squeeze just holding me… When he weakened, I got away and put pressure on him straight away, trying to create openings. I just wasn’t able to create the ones that I needed at the time. But yeah, these things happen.”
Adesanya had talked a big game before the fight, vowing that it would be a memorable performance from him, which is perhaps why he’s now received more of a backlash after failing to back his words up with action in the Octagon, but he insists that it’s only natural for a fighter to be confident in their own abilities heading into an event like this.
“You can go down the fight card and there are people saying what they’re going to do in the fight, not just myself, other athletes,” Adesanya said. “Shout out to Max Holloway, he said, ‘I’ll be surprised if this goes more than three rounds, because he was that confident in himself.’ He didn’t get the job done but you’re not going to kick a man when he’s down. You only kick him when he’s up.
“We all believe in what we’re going to do. Not just Max, everyone else. I really know what I can do and I know what I could have done to him and I was trying to do it to him, but it just didn’t happen the way I wanted it to. But again, I’m the one getting flak. There was no bit in that fight where I took my foot off the gas in the sense that I’m coasting. I wasn’t coasting. I was like, I’m going to keep touching him until he falls. I didn’t want to overcommit, because I knew he was going to counter me or I knew I’d leave myself in a vulnerable position, and that’s stupid. But I was right there in his face.”
Adesanya also pointed out that legends of the sport who are now revered like Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva also received criticism at the height of their careers, but in the end still went down in history as all-time MMA greats.
“It’s where I want to be,” Adesanya said. “Look at how we speak of them now. But right now I’m in it. People can’t see the forest for the trees. This is a thing that happens a lot. People can’t see the forest for the trees so they throw their toys, shake their rattles or whatnot, but you go down the line, when all is said and done, when my career is finished, we’ll see who was the guy. Eugene [Bareman] said it the best, these spectacular knockouts will come. These marvelous finishes will come, but right now it’s about playing the game, and I played the game very well. I hit the guy and didn’t get hit much. I feel we’re doing just what we need to do.