SYDNEY — Nigerian-born New Zealander Israel Adesanya will have some Southern Hemisphere support when he takes on American title challenger Sean Strickland in the main event of UFC 293 on Sunday.
The fight at Sydney Olympic Park’s Qudos Bank Arena – across the Tasman Sea from Adesanya’s base in New Zealand – will give the middleweight champion an opportunity to add a submission, or tapout, to his fight results repertoire.
A submission sees an opponent verbally concede the match due to pain or to avoid further injury. Adesanya’s 26 professional mixed martial arts fights include 16 wins by knockout and eight via decision (along with two losses), but none by submission.
“What do I want in my career? Submission, I definitely want a submission,” Adesanya told media this week. “It might be this fight. I know he’s going to wrestle. He’d be dumb not to. I know he’s going to try and mix it up. He’s doing this whole thing, ‘Man dance, man dance.’”
It’s the first time since 2017 that a UFC fight has been held in Australia’s largest city, and the second UFC card in Australia this year.
In February at Perth, Western Australia, Islam Makhachev defied a sustained challenge from Alexander Volkanovski to maintain his supremacy in the lightweight division.
In the lead-up to the title bout – which is timed to coincide with Saturday night in the lucrative pay-per-view TV market in North America – the 32-year-old Strickland, with a record of 27-5, has claimed he is happy to stand and box with Adesanya, although he believes his best chance is by wrestling with the champ.
Adesanya and Strickland don’t like each other much – they have traded barbs in the past. At UFC 276 last year in las Vegas, they were only a short distance away from each other, yelling, which started what has become a healthy rivalry.
Should Adesanya win Sunday, there are a few question marks as to whom he will fight next.
The 34-year-old Adesanya was set to take on Dricus du Plessis after he beat Robert Whittaker in a No. 1 contender match, but the South African turned down the UFC 293 fight, citing more recovery time needed and allowing Strickland to earn the call-up.
Adesanya criticized du Plessis for not taking the chance to fight for the title – “he (du Plessis) doesn’t call the shots, I do.”
Outside the Octagon, the UFC fight made news in the New South Wales state legislature, where the leading government lawmaker was forced to defend his state’s payment of about $10 million to help ensure the UFC event came to Sydney.
Strickland, a Riverside native who used to train in Temecula but now lives in Las Vegas, made sexist and misogynistic comments during a media conference this week, echoing comments he’s made previously.
Premier Chris Minns described the comments as “absolutely appalling.” But he said the entire sport could not be tarnished by “obnoxious” comments from one fighter.
“There’s millions of people that love the sport, that follow it and don’t hold those views at all,” Minns said Thursday.
HEAVYWEIGHTS ON MAIN CARD
The heavyweight bout between 30-year-old Sydney-born Tai Tuivasa and Russian Alexander Volkov, 34, is the co-main event. Tuivasa is 15-5 after having lost his last two fights and Volkov is 36-10.
Also on the main card: Manel Kape vs. Felipe dos Santos; Justin Tafa vs. Austen Lane; Tyson Pedro vs. Anton Turkalj.
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