At the UFC 25th anniversary press conference, Derek Brunson asked future opponent Israel Adesanya why he’s ‘always trying to be like Conor?’ He qualified the question by adding, ‘You’re from Nigeria.’
A fired-up Adesanya immediately gave his response in Yoruba, one of the official languages of Nigeria.
Almost one year to the day later, the Conor McGregor comparison was made again. Following his interim title-winning performance against Kelvin Gastelum, UFC president Dana White said the New Zealander reminded him of the former featherweight and lightweight champion.
“You know who he reminds me of? Conor McGregor. That’s what Conor did. Conor came in, he stayed active, he built up a lot of notoriety, had some great fights and people knew his name and people wanted to see him fight. Israel Adesanya is on the same trajectory right now. He’s doing the same exact thing Conor did.”
Since Adesanya unified the middleweight championship at UFC 243 by knocking out Robert Whittaker, the parallels drawn between himself and ‘the Notorious’ have only intensified.
Like Conor McGregor, Israel Adesanya came crashing into the UFC with the force of a Tsunami.
Like Conor McGregor, he headlined an event for his third UFC fight.
Like Conor McGregor, he won an interim title in his sixth fight for the promotion.
Like Conor McGregor, he usurped the king at the top of his division in a very brutal and decisive manner.
Like Conor McGregor, he became the first fighter from his country to win a UFC title.
Like Conor McGregor, when he grabs hold of the mic, he’s the king of the room.
Like Conor McGregor, he seems destined for superstardom.
However, ‘The Last Stylebender’ doesn’t want to do everything like Conor McGregor. When he was asked how he felt about being likened to the loquacious Irishman at the UFC 243 post-fight press conference, he kept his range again.
“No one is doing anything like I’m doing. This is a 60,000-seater arena.”
Adesanya isn’t your average UFC fighter. He walks the walk of an elite prizefighter, but he talks the talk of a fight fan. While most fighters steer clear of the meme culture in the modern game, Adesanya is an active participant in it. In his own tongue-in-cheek words, he’s ‘just a casual-fanny-troll’.
He studies UFC Embeddeds, he’s admitted to watching McGregor’s documentary multiple times on the road, he makes references to MMA lore. MMA fans may not be thinking Adesanya is like Conor, but rather he is more like one of them.
“I’m just a fan, at the end of the day. I’m just a fan. I’ve said this. I could rattle some shit off from back in the day, but I’m just a fan.”
A ‘casual’ of Adesanya’s stock will have cast his eagle-eyes over the career trajectory of McGregor. With his own career looking primed for an explosion, he should be looking to avoid the shortcomings that have seen McGregor’s approval rating take a hit after he reached the peak of his fame.
Sure, he’s like McGregor in a lot of ways, but Adesanya won’t want people to say, ‘he had a fall from grace… like McGregor’.