Israel Mobolaji Temitayo Odunayo Oluwafemi Owolabi Adesanya is a Nigerian-born New Zealand professional mixed martial artist, and former kickboxer and boxer. As a mixed martial artist, he is currently signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship, where he is the UFC Middleweight Champion.
Adesanya was born in Lagos, Nigeria, the eldest of five children. His father, Oluwafemi, is an accountant and his mother, Taiwo, is a nurse.
Adesanya attended Chrisland School, Opebi, and enrolled in its Taekwondo after-school club until he was removed by his mother due to an injury.
In 1999, he relocated to Ghana with his family for 10 months, but due to his parents wanting their children to receive a well-recognised higher education, he settled in Rotorua, New Zealand at age 10 and attended Rotorua Boys’ High School.
Adesanya was not interested in sport during high school; instead he was interested in Japanese anime such as Death Note and Naruto. Adesanya was bullied during his high school years and attributes the mistreatment he experienced to his decision to pursue martial arts later in life.
Following high school graduation, Adesanya enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Computer Design at the Universal College of Learning in Whanganui. At the age of 18, he started training in kickboxing, after being inspired by the Muay Thai film Ong-Bak.
Two years later Adesanya made the decision to cease his studies in pursuit of a career in kickboxing and went on to amass an amateur record of 32–0 before turning professional and fighting in China.
At the age of 21, Adesanya moved to Auckland, New Zealand, and began training in mixed martial arts under Eugene Bareman at City Kickboxing, with future UFC fighters such as Dan Hooker, Kai Kara-France and Alexander Volkanovski.
He trains in wrestling under the Romanian New Zealander Andrei Păuleț.
Adesanya is multilingual. He is fluent in Yoruba, Nigerian Pidgin and English.
Adesanya made his professional debut in 2012, with a TKO win against James Griffiths. He scored another TKO win against John Vake, before taking a two year hiatus from mixed martial arts. He returned to MMA in August 2015, when he won the fight against Song Kenan by TKO.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Adesanya signed a contract with the UFC in 2017. He made his debut against Rob Wilkinson on 11 February 2018, at UFC 221. He won the fight via technical knockout in the second round. This win earned him the Performance of the Night bonus.
He faced Kelvin Gastelum for the interim UFC Middleweight Championship on 13 April 2019, in the co-main event of UFC 236. He won the back-and-forth fight via unanimous decision. This fight earned him the Fight of the Night award. The fight was widely regarded as the best fight of the year, earning the nomination from most of the MMA news outlets.
Adesanya faced Jan Błachowicz for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship on 6 March 2021, at UFC 259. He lost the fight via unanimous decision, the first time he has been defeated in mixed martial arts.
A rematch between Adesanya and Marvin Vettori for the UFC Middleweight Championship is scheduled on June 12, 2021 at UFC 263.
Professional kickboxing Career
In May 2010, Adesanya won the first fight of his seven fight winning streak, defeating Tim Atonio by unanimous decision. He won his next six fights, fighting almost exclusively with Wu Lin Feng in China.
His winning streak earned him a place in the 2014 Kunlun Fight 80kg tournament, held during Kunlun Fight 2. He lost the semifinal bout against Simon Marcus by an extra round split decision.
His last kickboxing fight, before transitioning to mixed martial arts, was a rematch with Alex Pereira at Glory of Heroes 7. Pereira won the fight by knockout, after dropping Adesanya with a short left hook in the third round.
Professional boxing Career
Adesanya began his professional boxing career in November 2014 against two-time Australian champion Daniel Ammann.
He was granted one of two wildcards to enter the inaugural cruiserweight Super 8 Boxing Tournament. The event was headlined by Shane Cameron and Kali Meehan at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland, New Zealand.
He suffered a controversial loss via unanimous decision after he looked to have outpointed Ammann in the quarter-finals.
Adesanya re-entered the Super 8 tournament in May 2015, held at Horncastle Arena in Christchurch. It was the second cruiserweight series with the winner receiving $25,000 NZD and a new car.
Israel Adesanya net worth is $2 million. Aside his earnings from fighting, Israel also has a sponsorship deal with PUMa and Reebok. Adesanya was also signed as an ambassador for Stake.com in January 2021.