Abu Dhabi, UAE — Middleweight contender Jared Cannonier was all set to give the standard answer to the question of “is this the biggest fight of your career?” during UFC 254’s media day this week.
At the last minute, he thought better of it.
“Of my career, yes. This is the biggest fight of my career. A title fight is definitely coming for me next,” said Cannonier, who is in the co-main event against ex-champ Robert Whittaker this weekend.
Cannonier frankly has the attention of Israel Adesanya, the UFC middleweight champion, and one of its fastest rising stars. To that, Cannonier suggested that “real recognize real.”
Then there’s his spiritual side.
“[Adesanya] said in his interview that he loves my energy. To me, that means something different to what other people would mean,” Cannonier explained. “When you start talking energy, we all know that I love talking about energy, and working with energy, and stuff like that man. I think we’re looking at each other right here,” he stated, pointing to the “mind’s eye” area of his forehead. “We see each other right there.”
“That’s huge, especially in our sport, where a lot of people just look at the physicality of the sport, and then tap into the mentality of the sport as well,” he continued. “But there’s a spiritual aspect to this as well. Martial arts was a spiritual thing before it became a physical thing. It was a mental thing before it was a physical thing. Somebody had to feel it.”
With over 100 fights between different disciplines, Adesanya no doubt knows that, suggested Cannonier. “He knows that, he sees that, he sees that energy when I’m in there with my opponents. So that’s pretty awesome that he recognizes that.”
When it comes to his fight with Whittaker, it’s a bout that has been a long time coming for Jared Cannonier. The pair were originally booked for UFC 248 in March. Whittaker pulled out, amidst a swarm of rumors involving the health of his daughter. Eventually, it turned out that he’d been injured, and was frankly burned out on MMA.
“People pull out all the time. When I heard he pulled out, I was just hoping that it wasn’t the worst,” Cannonier explained ahead of UFC 254. However, the fact that Whittaker did get burned out on MMA “lets me know a few things,” he added. “That he don’t love it as much as I do maybe. Or maybe he’s just done it longer than I have and, I don’t know. Maybe it’s not a good environment to do it in, right? Maybe he’s got some issues in his gym.”
The Australian seemed to hint at that during some of the promotional footage this week, noted Cannonier. On the other hand, his opponent now seems to be in a better place. “He says he’s having fun, he’s enjoying it, and all that stuff.”
UFC 254 takes place on “Fight Island” (Yas Island) in Abu Dhabi at the Flash Forum on Saturday, October 24. The main card airs live on PPV following televised and online prelims.