Israel Adesanya is sitting pretty at the top of the UFC middleweight division and has no intention of relinquishing his crown.
‘The Last Stylebender’ continued his dominance in the 185lb class with a unanimous win over Robert Whittaker earlier this month, but the 32-year-old says he can get even better.
“I wasn’t as impressed with my performance as I’d like to be. Even though I won, I’m just hard on myself with these things,” he told Sky Sports.
The sky is now the limit for Adesanya, as he looks to the future.
One potential fight which could get the juices flowing for the UFC middleweight king is a showdown with British MMA star Darren Till in London.
My people are everywhere. Nigerians are everywhere. And we’ll pack the O2!
“I’ve tried to set it up so many times, but Darren Till hasn’t really stepped up,” Adesanya outlined. “And he’s fumbled the bag a few times.
“But I feel like it’s not done. He’s young. He’s a young guy. His story reminds me of [Michael] Bisping in a way. Michael Bisping was a guy, people counted out ‘The Count’! You don’t count out ‘The Count’!
“I counted him out. I never thought he would be champion. And look what happened! Amazing story! Rags to riches.
“So I feel like Darren is somehow on the same path. He’s a guy that people are counting out and doubting him.
“Don’t doubt him just yet…It might be something mental he has to deal with, because I don’t think it’s something physical. He has got the physical attributes and the gifts.
“He can get all the way up there. We’ll see. As long as I’m around, he’ll never have the belt though.”
And a showdown at The O2 in London is a mouth-watering prospect.
“That’s why I want to get it done,” Adesanya smiled. “The O2, we’d blow the roof off if we do that here. We’re in his back yard, but trust me, my people are everywhere. Nigerians are everywhere. And we’ll pack the O2.”
However, the UFC champion does not see Till as his next assignment.
Following his latest title defence, he wants to take care of another big name in his division this summer.
“Jared Cannonier is next. He’s my next opponent. I’m going to take care of him,” he said.
“And I have an idea of what’s happening after that, but I’m focusing on what’s next. Because if I don’t get that done, the rest of the plan gets edited drastically.
“He (Cannonier) is a new face, he’s someone fresh. I haven’t had that in a long time. So yeah, someone fresh I get to take care of, get to figure out.
“I’m going to bring a different energy to this fight that people haven’t seen from me for a long time. And that’s going off my fight a week ago. The way I felt in that fight, leading up to it, I was on. But there’s certain things I will definitely edit. I’m going to bring a different energy to this fight. It’s going to be reminiscent of something some of the greats have done in the past.”
And central to his success is an underlying enjoyment.
“I have fun with this,” he continued. “I have a big target on my back, and everyone is trying to get at me. But I’ve had that all my life. I’ve always had people coming at me. It’s nothing new. It’s just a bigger target now. More deadly opposition.
“It’s not just about money. I’m having fun.”