Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Israel Adesanya has designs on becoming “double champ” in 2021 as he pursues the UFC light heavyweight title. But that doesn’t mean he’s abandoning his middleweight legacy.
“All I know is f**king 2021, light heavyweight is mine,” Adesanya told MMA Fighting. “I’ll take the belt just to double champ it like some of the other fighters have. [Conor] McGregor, D.C. (Daniel Cormier), I like the look of two gold belts on my shoulder. I already did it with my interim belt and my unified undisputed belt when I was the double interim champ.
“But just to flex with that 205 belt as well, and I don’t even have to do much to do it. I just stay the same frame that I am. I don’t have to pack muscle like these guys are doing, like Jon [Jones] is doing. They’re making grave mistakes. It will come back to bite them in the ass when it’s time.”
After dispatching Paulo Costa in dominant fashion at UFC 253, “The Last Stylebender” had hinted at a potential light heavyweight move after a new light heavyweight champion was crowned at the event with Jan Blachowicz’s second-round finish of Dominick Reyes.
Adesanya previously had made it clear he wanted to clear out his current division before making the move to a different division. But one of his challengers at 185 pounds was eliminated when former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker took out Jared Cannonier a few weeks after his win over Costa. The prospect of a rematch was slightly less interesting to the champ, who claimed the undisputed championship with a thorough thrashing against Whittaker almost exactly one year ago.
This past weekend it was confirmed that Adesanya will move up to light heavyweight to challenge Blachowicz in his next fight. UFC President Dana White announced the news, adding that Whittaker wasn’t interested in the rematch with Adesanya, which made the promotion’s decision to book the fight against Blachowicz that much easier.
But despite his desire to add a second championship to his resume, Adesanya promises he’s not done at middleweight.
“No, middleweight’s mine,” he said. “Middleweight is my perfect weight class. So when I do 205, I’ll just hold up that division once in a while that’s all. I’ll defend my belt when it’s time.”
Right now, Adesanya the chance to add a second title is a little more enticing as he seeks to become one of only a handful of fighters to simultaneously hold championships in two different divisions.
Nothing is set in stone about how he’ll defend both belts. For his part, Adesanya has learned to go with the flow when it comes to a UFC career where he’s rocketed to superstardom after making his debut less than three years ago.
“That’s all down the line,” Adesanya said about reigning as a two-division champion. “I deal with things as they come. I plan for the future, but at the same time, there’s so many variables in this game. You deal with things as they come.”