Some think a matchup with veteran Brad Tavares might be too soon for budding star Israel Adesanya.
Adesanya, himself, is not one of those people.
“We can still do a highlight against Brad and we can still showcase against him,” Adesanya told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “It’s no problem.”
Adesanya will meet Tavares in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale on July 6 in Las Vegas. It’s a bout and card that will be the tablesetter for UFC 226 the next night at T-Mobile Arena.
The position is one of prestige for the Nigerian by way of New Zealand and his role as a potential future draw. The opponent, though, is durable and talented one. Tavares is 17-4 as a professional and has won four in a row. He’s a perennial top-10 talent in the middleweight division and has been in the UFC for eight years.
With all those things considered, Adesanya does not consider Tavares an upgrade over his previous opponent, Marvin Vettori, at least in terms of style. Adesanya knocked off Vettori by split decision at UFC on FOX 29 last month.
“Brad, I think is gonna be easier than my last opponent, just because I’ve seen that style so many times,” Adesanya said. “I’ve read that stuff so many times. That’s nothing to me. My last opponent, Marvin Vettori, was an awkward, weird southpaw and I was able to read things on the fly with him. Brad, I’ve seen that style many, many times, so it’s going to be easier to read this book.”
Adesanya, 28, admittedly did not have the easiest time with the rugged Vettori. Though he vehemently disputes the one judge who scored the fight for the Italian. In his UFC debut last February, Adesanya looked brilliant in knocking out Rob Wilkinson in the second round. “The Last Stylebender” is predicting a similar fate for Tavares.
“Look at Brad, the way he’s fought,” said Adesanya, who has also been a standout professional kickboxer. “His last fight was his first finish in seven years. His chin isn’t as durable as Marvin. I don’t like to say things like that, because no one has a chin. Everyone has a button, it’s just how you can find that button. His button, his style with his stance, is easier to find than Marvin’s button.
“I’ll give it less than three rounds. Less than three rounds. The way he likes to throw, he’s from Hawaii. He’s a heavy guy when he throws. He’s a scrapper. So, we could scrap.”
Tavares has lost by knockout twice in the last four years, but otherwise has the reputation for being sturdy and resilient. Adesanya said with respect to Tavares’ consistent spot in the rankings and his name value, he will be the most significant matchup for him to date.
“It’s hard to keep feeding me guys that aren’t in the same kind of echelon as me, which I don’t really feel like there is yet,” Adesanya said. “Brad is a good fight, good test. It’ll be my toughest test to date. I’ll get past him and move forward.”
Adesanya (13-0) said he feels like he belongs in a main event spot and had a prophecy about such a distinction when he was in Las Vegas years ago for the Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao boxing match. The UFC, Adesanya said, has been “cool as f*ck” to him and no other organization he has been with to this point has been able to match the promotion’s professionalism.
However, Adesanya did say he was in favor of some kind of unionization effort, just so that fighters, who put their bodies and health on the line every time, can be paid a fairer wage.
“I feel like MMA athletes are the best athletes in the world,” Adesanya said. “The amount of work we have to do to get to that Octagon, we should be getting paid what we’re worth. Some of these football players are getting paid f*cking hundreds of thousands a week. That’s because football has been around for years. Basketball players or gridiron players. And they can’t do what we do. … It would be nice if the pie was shared evenly across the field.”