UFC 248: Israel Adesanya Wants to “Do Right” by Middleweight Division, “Like GSP at Welterweight”

Las Vegas, NV — Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is nothing if not excited for UFC 248 this weekend. His first PPV headliner in the U.S.

“I feel good. I feel like this is where it’s supposed to be. It’s the mecca of fighting. This is Las Vegas. This is the big show,” he told media outlets at Wednesday’s open workouts. Sure, his last fight came at a stadium in Australia. But this one feels special also.

Adesanya openly admits he’s looking forward to seeing what sort of numbers the event does. “My first PPV in America with a card that— Sean O’Malley opening the main show, that’s going to be sick. I can’t wait for his comeback. And then the co-main event, that’s slept on. You guys don’t understand. That’s going to be Fight of the Night in my opinion. The girls are going to f*cking scrap. That’s going to be a good fight.”

If it sounds like Adesanya is earning some PPV points, keep in mind that the ESPN+ deal changed the landscape. “I came at the end of the height of it, the former model. But we get compensated well,” he said in response to that suggestion.

UFC 248 sees Adesanya putting his belt on the line against Yoel Romero. A fighter coming off a pair of losses who has consistently struggled to make the 185lb limit. But as ‘The Last Stylebender’ points out, the middleweight division has been “weird.” So while he doesn’t want to see Romero’s title shot as setting a precedent, he also wants to defend his title at a time when most of the top contenders are injured.

“I don’t want to be that guy, like the former champion [Robert Whittaker], where you hold the division up,” Adesanya told reporters. “I want to be active, I want to be fighting. I’m a guy, when I say I really want to fight four times in a year, you see me do it, you see me fight five times, with a day extra, but whatever, I still make it a year. But I want to be an active champion.”

The blueprint for the champion Israel Adesanya aspires to be can be found with some of the all-time greats. “I want to do right by the division, like GSP did at welterweight, like Demetrious Johnson at flyweight. Like Anderson [Silva] did at middleweight,” he said. “I want to make the middleweight division great.”

And to be fair, if all had gone according to plan, Adesanya would not be fighting Romero. It would be Paulo Costa getting the shot. Adesanya hasn’t forgotten him, but he’s also not giving him any mic time this week.

“I want to pop that motherf*cker before USADA does, I swear to god,” Adesanya quipped. “I want to be the first one to do it.”

On a more positive note, the response to Adesanya from African fans has “been beautiful,” he said. Adesanya is one of several fighters at the forefront of a new wave of talent featuring fighters from Africa, and in particular Nigeria.

“People in Nigeria stay up til 4AM to watch the fight,” he observed. “I want to be the guy that, when I fight, people stay up til 4AM to watch the fight, and they celebrate til the next day at midnight. I want to be that guy.”

Watch the full UFC 248 open workout media scrum with Israel Adesanya above!