ABU DHABI – Jared Cannonier can see UFC gold on the horizon.
The UFC middleweight contender thinks he’s on the verge of challenging middleweight champion Israel Adesanya if victorious Saturday. Cannonier (13-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) takes on former champion Robert Whittaker in the co-main event of UFC 254.
“This is the biggest fight of my career. A title fight is definitely coming for me next,” Cannonier told reporters, including MMA Junkie, on Tuesday at UFC 254 media day.
UFC president Dana White has said Cannonier is next for Adesanya if he’s able to get past Whittaker, making UFC 254 a significant moment for “The Killa Gorilla.” The champion himself, Adesanya, has targeted Cannonier as the next guy in line and has shown plenty of interest in facing him in the near future.
This makes Cannonier a happy man.
“Real recognize real,” Cannonier said. “He said in his interview he respects my energy, and that means something different to me than what it means to other people. When you start talking energy, I think we’re seeing each other right there [points to third eye] and that’s huge.
“I think a lot of people look at the physicality of the sport and don’t tap into the mentality of the sport, as well. There’s a spiritual aspect to this sport. Martial arts is a spiritual thing before it was a physical thing.”
Although the future seems promising for Cannonier, he is entering the biggest fight of his UFC career off an injury and lengthy layoff. Cannonier’s last fight was in September 2019 as a torn pec kept him out of commission. Some might see it as a negative, but the 36-year-old sees it as a sign for better things.
“Even though I had the injury, some may see it as a bad thing, but in my experiences in my whole life, especially since leaving home, I’ve realized whenever something me or anyone perceives as negative, it’s always followed by something positive – like a pendulum swing,” Cannonier explained. “So with this injury, COVID-19 popping off and everything shutting down, the injury happened at a really good time because I was able to go to my physical therapist. Al Escobar is the man … not only was he rehabilitating the pec, but he was taking me through a strength and conditioning program that has definitely benefited me in a very major way. You guys will see.”