MMA Ratings Podcast

September 23, 2020

UFC 253: Israel Adesanya Is Gaining Momentum and the UFC Needs To Get On Board

By Raphael Garcia

Israel Adesanya is heading into UFC 253 with quite the task in front of him. He is battling a dynamic wrecking machine in Paulo Costa in a main event bout that features two undefeated fighters vying for the UFC Middleweight Championship. He is also on the cusp of becoming a UFC star at a time when the promotion is struggling to develop them. But unfortunately for Adesanya, he is also fighting against the tide of the UFC’s penchant for putting its organization before its individuals.

Adesanya is the type of fighter that displays character beyond fisticuffs. He can walk into the Octagon and dispatch foes with pinpoint accuracy, then moments later he can participate in an interview where he is dropping one-liners that leave everyone in smiles, calling for more. His attitude evokes athletes in other sports, like the star wide receiver in the NFL or the outspoken point guard that leads an NBA team. He is the type of fighter that creates fans of a sport like MMA. The UFC, mainly UFC President Dana White, needs to get out of his way and let this man become the star he seems destined to be. The question is whether the organization considers it to be in its best interest to do so.

In a recent interview with TMZ Sports, White let it be known that he is not the biggest fan of Adesanya’s elaborate dance routines during his in-arena walkouts and cage entrances:
“Well he’s an interesting guy anyways, but yeah, I don’t love it [laughing] I don’t love it. I battle with him every time we do it, you know? I keep it as minimal as possible. I like guys that walk right into the Octagon, they’re serious, they’re all business.”
Speaking of business, this "interesting guy" Adesanya took a major step in the development of his brand when he became the first fighter to sign a sponsorship deal with Puma. He is set to be the face of their Oceania marketing and global marketing as well. This is even with Puma being aware that he is unable to wear their gear in the Octagon; they still see value in Adesanya as a part of their company’s growth.

Adesanya is Nigerian-born and based in New Zealand. Those are two locations the UFC can leverage him as a pillar for future events. The promotion has done so for both Conor McGregor in Ireland and Alexander Gustafsson in Sweden. Imagine what Adesanya could do on a New Zealand card, partnered with his teammate, UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski. The opportunity is there, but the UFC must pounce on it while it can.
The question is whether the organization is interested in doing so. The company has consistently shown that the organization always comes before the fighter. Superstar fighters like McGregor and Ronda Rousey were able to build their brands in such a way that the UFC could not control them, affording them the space to seek opportunities that weren't primarily designed to put money in the UFC’s pocket.

Adesanya has the potential to grow his brand and develop into another fighter that is capable of opening up opportunities for himself. He is only 31 years old, but with nearly a decade in the fight game, Adesanya may be prepared to make an exit sooner rather than later. Adesanya presents himself as an individual that is interested in crafting a legacy, but that does not mean he is going to stick around too long, like so many other fighters who need to keep fighting.

It is in Israel Adesanya's best interest for the UFC to promote him like the star that he is. But unfortunately, it does not seem like the organization is prepared to do so. In many ways, it is a fight promotion that prefers to push back against fighters who attempt to control their own narratives, instead courting an audience of fans more loyal to Dana White than any fighter. But even with those fans in the promotion's corner, Adesanya has the potential to rise above all of that and still attain stardom. It all comes down to his ability to continue to dazzle in the cage, and UFC 253 is his next opportunity to do just that.

UFC 253
Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa (UFC Middleweight Championship)

UFC 253: Adesanya vs. Costa was originally scheduled for September 19, 2020 at venue TBA in location TBA. It was rescheduled for September 26, 2020 and relocated to Flash Forum in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

Click HERE for more UFC 253 Pre-Fight Analysis

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