ABU DHABI – While fight fans, and the media, are getting hyped ahead of Israel Adesanya’s middleweight title defense against Paulo Costa at UFC 253, the defending champ is keeping his energy in check.
Rather than buying into all of the pre-fight hyperbole, Adesanya (19-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) has taken a more balanced, considered view of his upcoming test.
Speaking to reporters, including MMA Junkie, at the UFC 253 media day at Yas Island, Adesanya admitted that he didn’t see Saturday’s fight with Costa (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) as a major milestone in his career.
“To be honest, not really. I know it’s a big fight, I know I’m gonna do well. I feel like it’s just another fight, just another day at the office,” he said.
Adesanya also stated that he disagreed with some of the pre-fight talk suggesting his clash with Costa was one of the greatest middleweight matchups in UFC history. When asked his opinion, he shut that idea down instantly, and said Costa’s record was a major reason behind his view.
“No. I don’t think so,” he stated, matter-of-factly. “His resume doesn’t hold up enough. You look at the guys he’s beat. He beat an over-the-hill Johny Hendricks, no offense. He beat Uriah Hall, who was doing quite well in that fight, one of his better performances. But Uriah Hall succumbed to his will, because Uriah Hall sometimes breaks mentally. And he beat Yoel Romero, who is on the way out, anyway. … I don’t think it’s going to be the greatest middleweight fight in history. I kinda already did that with Kelvin Gastelum, so I have that in my back resume.”
Adesanya also recounted his pre-fight conversation with Costa, which was captured on camera and shared online. The exchange was viewed by many as a cordial one, but Adesanya revealed that, rather than simply exchanging pleasantries, he was sizing up his opposite number, both physically and mentally.
“I went over there to kind of check his energy,” he explained. “I went there, sized him up, patted him on the shoulder to feel how dense he is. I shook his hand because I wanted to feel the kind of pressure he put on, from a guy who said ‘I won’t shake his hand when I beat him.’ He’s just like one of those dogs that just barks behind the fence, but when the fence opens up he just comes around like, real timid.
“So I went to check his energy and I even said, ‘You look skinny.’ I expected him to take that the wrong way, but he and Wallid (his manager) were giggling like little girls, so I already knew what I already knew. It just confirmed that I knew that they were gonna submit to me, so yeah, he didn’t check out when I checked him.”
While Adesanya said the fight doesn’t necessarily hit the highest of heights in terms of matchups he’s had, he did say that he plans to use the optics of the matchup to prove a point to the casual fans who judge fighters by their physique, rather than by their skills.
“I don’t want to downplay the stakes. I feel like it is an important fight,” he said. “It’s gonna be a great showcase. People say it’s the fight of the year, like Dana White said. But that’s only if he’s tough enough to actually take a beating from me for five rounds. But I just don’t think his gas tank is gonna hold up.
“For my legacy, it’s just the look of it. People are still fooled by muscles and big juiceheads and think, ‘Ah! That’s what a fighter looks like!’ Especially the casuals. They’re the ones who pay your bills, the ones who really go buy this (expletive). Once they see this skinny clown, supposedly, beat this muscly buffoon and they’re like, ‘What? The skinny guy beat the muscly guy! How’d he do that?’ It’s gonna blow their minds, especially in the fashion that I’m gonna do it.”
UFC 253 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+.