Israel Adesanya promises to come back stronger after UFC 259 defeat

UFC 259 – Israel Adesanya vowed on Sunday to come back stronger following his first professional defeat in MMA, as he concentrates for now on dominating back at middleweight.

Unbeaten in his previous 20 pro fights, the middleweight champion was attempting to become only the fifth UFC athlete to hold two belts simultaneously when he stepped into the headline bout at UFC 259 against light-heavyweight title-holder Jan Blachowicz.

However, the giant Pole saw off his Nigerian-born rival by unanimous decision at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, even if the 49-46, 49-45, 49-45 scores seemed wildly exaggerated.

Adesanya, a former kickboxing champion who has also competed in boxing, appeared at the post-fight press conference, to his credit, and told the gathered media: “Losses are part of life. Losses are something I deal with occasionally. Just this is my first one in MMA. As I say, it is what it is. If I was going to lose to anyone, what better guy to lose to than a guy like Jan?

“He’s a classy champion, a cool dude, a very nice guy – a guy who has a great story himself: on his way to getting cut from the company, comes back and then dominates and becomes the light-heavyweight champion and then hands this guy, a future legend, his first loss. Yeah, if I was going to lose to anyone, I’m glad I lost to him.”

Adesanya, 31, was contesting his first UFC bout at light heavyweight, with his decision to move up a division the subject of much conjecture. The New Zealander said he weighed around 200 lbs for the clash with Blachowicz, while his opponent was thought to be at least 20 lbs heavier. That told whenever the bout went to the ground, with Blachowicz able to use his bigger frame to pin down Adesanya.

“No regrets,” Adesanya said when asked about going to light heavyweight. “I feel like the boxing model has made it a bad thing to lose. Yeah, it sucks losing – don’t get me wrong. But it’s not like the end of the world.

“Like I said, I’ve lost before in the past… right now, me and my team, we’re just excited to get home and work on certain little details. Honestly, I could’ve won this fight… tonight he played a better game plan, and he was the better fighter tonight. That’s it. He respected me, and I respected him, and we had a great showing of ourselves.

“I’m not heartbroken. I hate losing, don’t get me wrong. But I’m not like, ‘Oh my god, he really embarrassed me’. I felt like I had a great showing for myself.

“I represented my team very well. Now we go back to the drawing board. It’s kind of fun. This is the dip in my story. You know what I mean? This is the valley, if you will. Then, I’ll rise again like the phoenix that I am.”

Long-time rival Jon Jones was quick to slam Adesanya’s performance on social media, declaring he was not “even worth my time” and claiming that “people so quick to jump on the hype train”.

UFC president Dana White paid tribute afterwards to Adesanya for stepping out of his comfort zone, telling the media: “This fight was, ‘Is Israel going to beat Jan and go on to superstardom and possibly fight Jon Jones at heavyweight?’

“He’s the middleweight champ. He doesn’t get the light-heavyweight title and he doesn’t fight Jon Jones. But you know what? You can never hurt somebody for thinking big and trying to become great. He gave it a shot tonight and it didn’t happen.”

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