It’s a well-worn cliché that “to be the best, you have to beat the best.” But if the first four fights of Israel Adesanya’s UFC career were a preamble to his story, his co-main showdown Sunday [Saturday night, US] with living legend Anderson Silva promises to get into the thick of the plot.
In former decorated champion Silva, Adesanya not only faces a foe who he admired on the come-up, but one whose very style had visible influence on the fighter “The Last Stylebender” has become.
From his UFC debut to middleweight contender in less than a year, the movie of his life has continued to play out the way his repeated daydreams have dictated.
It’s all unfolding as Israel Adesanya has foreseen it.
UFC: You’ve told me you're a guy that visualizes things, that you'd seen every episode of Embedded and Countdown back in the day and could see how your career was going to play out. So I have to imagine this fight with Silva is also one you've visualized?
IA: Déjà vu. Everything is Déjà vu at this moment.
UFC: Everyone knows that to become the best, you've got to knock off some of the guys you came up admiring. When the cage door locks, is there anything different about facing a legend, or is it just another fight?
IA: Nope. Honestly, just another guy with gloves on. He bleeds. He gets bumps and bruises. His leg broke. I know Silva is human, so yeah, I can kill him.
UFC: As long as Anderson has been fighting, and as much footage as there is on him, is it fair to say there's not very much new that he can show you Sunday?
IA: No. I’m definitely sure you can teach that old dog new tricks. He’s different. But I can adapt, let’s put it that way. Whatever tricks he pulls out, I can adapt to them.
UFC: No matter how you analyze it, this absolutely has the potential to be a passing of the torch moment.
IA: That’s how I write it in the storybook, in the documentary, in the movie. Yes, definitely. It’s the end of the first movie, this bit. I’ll begin the next movie, Part 2, when I fight for the belt.
UFC: How do you train for a guy like Anderson Silva and where do you think you have an advantage in the fight?
IA: I’ll probably just shadow box in the mirror that’s how I get ready for Anderson Silva, because I’m better than this clown. The stand-up. Anderson has never ever ever ever ever fought any guy like me. He might try to take me down, I welcome him to – everyone else has tried, but if he wants to stand a trade shots I don’t trade shots. I just deliver them – express.
UFC: Of course you're focused on Anderson, as you should be, but how interested will you be in the main event, considering it has implications for you.
IA: Always. I planned out how I want this to go, and I feel it’s going to go exactly how I want it, so I already have my premonitions ready. The variables are always there, you never know, I’m always ready to adapt, regardless. I know what I’m going to do on Sunday.
UFC: This will be your fifth fight in a calendar year. Will you look to slow the pace with a top contender status?
IA: Nah, I’ll just keep doing me. This is nothing. In 2016 I fought close to 25 times, so this is easy, easy work.
Steve Latrell is a writer and producer for UFC.com, follow him on Twitter at @TheUFSteve