Israel Adesanya finds himself in an intriguing position, eagerly awaiting his next formidable opponent.
In his most recent bout at UFC 287 this past April, Adesanya conquered his long-standing rival in the combat sports arena, Alex Pereira. The two had faced off multiple times before, with Pereira emerging victorious in kickboxing and MMA competitions, amassing an impressive 3-0 score against Adesanya. However, the tides turned as Adesanya landed a devastating knockout blow, silencing his rival in the second round of their highly anticipated MMA rematch.
With the Pereira chapter now closed, at least for the time being, Adesanya has set his sights on new horizons, specifically in the light heavyweight division. As he looks to solidify his legacy, the next contender for his middleweight title will likely emerge from the clash between Robert Whittaker and Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 290 on July 8.
Yet, amid the anticipation surrounding these potential challengers, there is another name that keeps circulating—Khamzat Chimaev, the highly ranked welterweight contender. Chimaev not only hints at a return to the 185-pound division but also expresses a keen interest in facing Adesanya. As "The Last Stylebender" ponders his next move, he finds himself drawn to the possibilities that lie before him—whether it be a heated showdown with Du Plessis, a clash with a rejuvenated Chimaev, or an exciting encounter with the victor of Whittaker vs. Du Plessis.
“Trust me, I’m not scared of nobody on this f***** planet. No one,” Adesanya said on IMPAULSIVE. “And also, guess what, I like a challenge. [Chimaev] presents something unique that — I’ve seen wrestlers before. It’s a big fight. That’s why I like that. Cheddar makes it better. But he’s got Kamaru [Usman] and after that is probably gonna go for the title [if he wins].
“I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I’m gonna be there in July [for UFC 290] and I’mma see what’s up. Not with Rob, with Du Plessis.”
Although not officially confirmed, a potential showdown between Usman and Chimaev has been the subject of speculation and discussion, with UFC President Dana White acknowledging the possibility. Both fighters have expressed their interest in the matchup, but there is one key aspect that needs to be resolved—the weight class in which the fight would take place.
Chimaev finds himself in a state of uncertainty due to a significant weight miss of 7.5 pounds before his scheduled welterweight bout with Nate Diaz in September. This incident led to a complete reshuffling of the card, eventually resulting in Chimaev securing a first-round d'arce choke victory against Kevin Holland in a 180-pound catchweight bout. Even prior to the weight-related turmoil surrounding the undefeated Chechen sensation, Chimaev had his sights set on a clash with Adesanya.
“He said some s*** in the past,” Adesanya said. “He always tweets after my fights anyway but I don’t respond to nonsense. Everyone does. I’m the champ. Even when Pereira took the belt, I was still the champ. I wasn’t the UFC champion, but they still called me champ on the streets because I’m me. I’m Israel Adesanya. I have that name, that target on my back no matter what and I said that even leading up to this last fight.
“People were like, ‘Ah, do you feel the pressure has been taken off you now that you’ve lost the belt?’ I was like, nah. I’m still Israel Adesanya. I’m still ‘The Last Stylebender.’ They want to fight me because I’m one of the greatest in this game right now, and they want to have me on their mantle piece or that name like, ‘Yeah, I beat him’ or ‘I fought him.’”