10:59 am - Friday November 22, 2019

BORN TO REIGN: Lagos bullied boy, ISRAEL ADESANYA in New Zealand knocks-out opponent to become UFC World Middleweight Champion…endured Racial Abuse, street-fighting from the age of 10 *30 year old now celebrated as one of the best fighters in the world *Crushes Robert Whittaker’s dentition out in two rounds before a crowd of 57,000 in Melbourne * earlier trained in taekwondo in Nigeria, fighting professional kickboxing bouts in 2011 * ‘I struggled to fit in and never felt accepted in my adopted country because of my race and being an African immigrant. It was weird being the only black kid around. I had to defend myself a lot. ‘I’m cheeky, I’m annoying so I’d always get myself into trouble and eventually I had to learn how to defend myself. That’s when my search for fighting came through’-Adesanya BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF


BORN TO REIGN:

Lagos bullied boy, ISRAEL ADESANYA in New Zealand knocks-out opponent to become UFC World Middleweight Champion…endured Racial Abuse, street-fighting from the age of 10

*30 year old now celebrated as one of the best fighters in the world

*Crushes Robert Whittaker’s dentition out in two rounds before a crowd of 57,000 in Melbourne

* earlier trained in taekwondo in Nigeria, fighting professional kickboxing bouts in 2011

* ‘I struggled to fit in and never felt accepted in my adopted country because of my race and being an African immigrant. It was weird being the only black kid around. I had to defend myself a lot. ‘I’m cheeky, I’m annoying so I’d always get myself into trouble and eventually I had to learn how to defend myself. That’s when my search for fighting came through’-Adesanya

BY GEORGE ELIJAH OTUMU/AMERICAN FOREIGN BUREAU CHIEF

HE’S THE GLORY OF NIGERIA. HE IS A LAGOS BOY WHO PASSIONATELY BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF DESTINY. Needless to say, ISRAEL ADESANYA is a child of destiny. He is indeed. He takes on almost every opponents with a determination for victory and knock-out. By the end of the last count, this 30 year old Nigerian always emerge a winner, with loss in a match. Only a few days ago, he humiliated Robert Whittaker, his opponent in Melbourne to win the coveted UFC World Middleweight Champion.

This new UFC middleweight champion was just 10 when his family brought him from Nigeria to an all-white school in New Zealand. The only black kid in his class, he was relentlessly bullied until he learned to fight and stand up for himself. Since then the lean 6ft 4in 30-year-old fighter has had a chip on his shoulder, bragging and smack talking to all who would listen. To show him as a man of honesty who keeps his promises, last Sunday he backed up his talk by crushing Robert Whittaker in two rounds before a record crowd of 57,000 in Melbourne to become world champion.

Adesanya said: ”I am real petty you know that. I remember everything like an elephant. I was in the nosebleeds and now I made his nose bleed,’ he gloated in victory. Adesanya’s journey from the nosebleeds to world champ started when his well-off parents decided to move out of Lagos to give their children a better education. His father Femi, an accountant, and Taiwo, a nurse, were tossing up between the U.S. and New Zealand and ruled out America after the September 11 attacks. ‘I went to Rotorua Boys’ High School and there’s a lot of testosterone. It was ups and downs, smiles and frowns. It was weird being the only black kid around. I had to defend myself a lot. ‘I’m cheeky, I’m annoying so I’d always get myself into trouble and eventually I had to learn how to defend myself. That’s when my search for fighting came through.”

In his revelation, he Adesanya confessed that he struggled to fit in and never felt accepted in his adopted country because of his race and being an African immigrant. ‘Literally there was a point through high school where I used to try and sound like [my classmates], I used try and be like them and talk like them,’ he said last year. Just so I can fit in. I tried so many times to fit in but I could never ever fit in. I was always like, an outcast. At the end of the day, look at my skin. I’m all black and ironically that’s the country’s national rugby team’s name. I was never able to fit in properly and be accepted when I was a kid,’ he said.

School was also the origin of Adesanya’s notorious swaggering self-confidence that made him such a loudmouth in and out of the ring. He started giving himself motivation pep talks, and first to get through the day and then to push himself to become a champion fighter.

“I think I was crying in the mirror one day after being picked on. I was upset and I just kind of talked to myself and then eventually I just started doing it. I’ve been doing it for years now. I don’t like eating my own words and I like rubbing it in people’s faces, “ he reportedly said.

In another interview he also attributed some of his his divisive attitude to his African upbringing. He said: “I think it’s a trait of people from my place. We don’t shy from flaunting our abilities, even if we fall flat on our face, we still put it out there. It ain’t bragging if you can back it up, and I’ve been backing it up for years now, so I can say what I want and do what I want.”

Adesanya had trained briefly in taekwondo in Nigeria but his mother pulled him out of class when he broke his hand. Almost a decade later he started to learn kickboxing after being inspired by the Muay Thai film Ong-Bak. Growing up he also excelled at dancing, which is always a feature of his entrance to the ring, and believes he could have been just as good if he chose that path professionally. There were plenty of young black men like me dancing, but in UFC there was a market for me.”

In 2009 he went against his trainer’s advice and competed in an amateur MMA fight which he lost but didn’t embarrass himself. Spurred on by his loss, Adesanya moved to Auckland aged 21 and began training under his current coach Eugene Bareman.

Bareman was hesitant at first as he was part of Adesanya’s support team in 2009 and found the young fighter too stubborn to deal with. Adesanya started fighting professional kickboxing bouts in 2011, a career which he continued at the same time as MMA until 2017, amassing a 75-5 record.

He toiled mostly in obscurity for most of his MMA career, beginning in 2012, and only got his first UFC opportunity last July after already winning 11 straight bouts.

Four fighters knocked back the chance to face him in his first UFC bout until Australian brawler Rob Wilkinson took him on. Adesanya dismantled him in just the second round and was victorious in another five fights before he won the right to challenge Whittaker.

Whittaker started the match well by breaching Adesanya’s defences a few times in the first round as the fighters sized each other up. The suddenly Adesanya landed a big uppercut on Whittaker just before the first round bell that knocked the Sydneysider to the canvas.

Whittaker never completely recovered from the brutal knockdown and couldn’t sustain his all-out attack to start the second round. ‘The Reaper’ landed a solid hit to Adesanya’s face in the second round before his opponent walloped him on the chin and Whittaker suddenly went down.

Adesanya ran over and starting striking Whittaker’s head before referees ended the match and declared him the new champion of their middleweight division. The victor celebrated by crouching down and miming mowing down the octagon with two machine pistols before dramatically holstering them.

Adesanya didn’t take long to start bragging, and almost immediately challenged Paulo Costa, who was in the audience, to be his next opponent. “You know who’s next. I got this overly inflated balloon animal. This heavy-a*** Ricky Martin wannabe. Borrhaccina,’ he said.

‘You better not step in here ’cause this is my f**king cage tonight. It’s my octagon. Trust me, when I’m done with him, he’ll really look like Ricky Martin: botched.’

Soon after he threw more insults at Costa and all the fans – and anyone else really – who doubted him.

‘The casuals, they’re dumb. They see a beefed up beefcake like [Costa] and think ‘that’s the guy’,’ he said. ‘I’m still all hype, by the way. Don’t worry, I’m just a hype train. So yeah, they’ll see that and think ‘That’s the guy! That’s the guy!’ ‘They just want to see me lose, but they’re going to be waiting a long time.’

Till date, Adesanya remains the glory of Nigeria, born-to-reign.

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