UFC President Dana White knows, after 23 years running the ship atop the world’s largest MMA promotion, that anything can happen in this sport.
Still, he seemed as confused as anyone as to what happened with Israel Adesanya in the UFC 293 main event. “The Last Stylebender” lost his middleweight title for the second time on Saturday at the Qudos Bank Arena, knocked down in the opening round of his fight with Sean Strickland. From there, while Adesanya appeared to win the second, it was mostly Strickland leading the dance, winning a clear decision after five rounds.
“Israael looked like he was in slow motion. He looked like he couldn’t get off, he looked really stiff tonight. He looked really slow,” White said following the event. And he didn’t appear to have any answers as to what was wrong with the now-former champion. “Only Israel knows what’s going on. I’m very curious to see what he says at this press conference tonight.”
What happens next is the big question. Time off for Izzy? Someone else to challenge newly crowned champ Strickland? For once, White was willing to play matchmaker the night of a fight.
“No, I think you do the rematch. Absolutely. The rematch is interesting. That could be the thing too, when you think about, you’re going into the [Alex] Pereira fight, such a big fight, you’ve been in there with this guy so many times, you overlook Strickland. I don’t know, I don’t know the answer to these questions. But Israel does, and I’m looking forward to hearing them.”
Adesanya won his title back from Pereira back in April. UFC 293 in Sydney was expected to be his triumphant homecoming. It was anything but.
Choosing to make just a brief statement and saying he wanted to be around people who loved him, Adesanya himself did not field any questions from reporters. Dana White, and the rest of us, will just have to wait for his thoughts. Instead, he deferred to City Kickboxing coach Eugene Bareman.
“We’ll find something to add to this camp, and we’ll win the rematch,” predicted Bareman, noting that he had asked the matchmakers for the fight to happen “next week.”
“I’m just very confident that we can change the outcome of this fight with very minor adjustments.”
As for White, he also addressed the presence of heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko in EA’s UFC 5 video game. Fedor, as is well known, never fought in the UFC, despite the promotion clearly coveting him.
“I guess he wants to be in the game,” White stated. “Or we paid him an obscene amount of money, I don’t know. One or the other.”