Six fights into his UFC tenure and Israel Adesanya is a champion. Not only is he a champion, he's quickly becoming one of the top stars in the fight promotion.
"Israel is flashy. Israel is a good looking kid. Israel speaks real well. Israel Adesanya became a start tonight," UFC president Dana White said Saturday night following UFC 236 in Atlanta, where Adesanya bested Kelvin Gastelum to become the interim middleweight champion.
Adesanya will now be matched with current middleweight champion Robert Whittaker to unify the belts later this year, once Whittaker returns from injury.
White had initially planned for the winner of the interim middleweight title fight to face Whittaker in the United States, but considering Adesanya's meteoric rise, he wants the fight to take place in Australia, believing it could take place in a large stadium instead of an arena.
In mentioning Adesanya's rise, White compared him to Conor McGregor.
The similarities between Israel Adesanya and Conor McGregor
"You know who (Adesanya) reminds me of? Conor McGregor. That's what Conor McGregor did. He came in. He stayed active. He built up a lot of notoriety. Had some great fights. People knew his name and people wanted to see him fight," said White.
"Israel Adesanya is on that same trajectory right now. He's doing the exact same thing Conor did."
Adesanya became an interim champion in just his sixth UFC bout, as did McGregor. Now he hopes to continue in McGregor's footsteps to become the undisputed champion and one of the sport's biggest stars. With a style that is reminiscent of Anderson Silva and Jon Jones and a personality that tends to electrify fans, Adesanya has superstar potential, just like McGregor.
Another thing that White likes about Adesanya that likens him to McGregor is his willingness to fight. McGregor has been much more choosy about who and when in recent years, but as he was building his star power, McGregor was willing to fight anyone, any time.
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"You know what Israel doesn't say when we call him? He doesn't say no, I'm on vacation. I'm not gonna show up and fight for a belt and then possibly get a shot at the champion, and then get pay-per-view money," White said.
"He says, yeah, I'll see you in Atlanta. And when you have that type of confidence in yourself, it pays off. It's definitely gonna pay off for him."
In many ways, it already has paid off for Adesanya. People now know his name and he has gold wrapped around his waste. His next bout will be accompanied by pay-per-view points and could begin to etch his name as one of the UFC's middleweight greats.