- The UFC may well have another Conor McGregor-type superstar in its roster.
- The 6-foot-4 kickboxer Israel Adesanya became a UFC champion in 2019, only one year after making his debut with the world's premier mixed martial arts organization.
- It prompted a prominent MMA reporter at ESPN to say that his rise to the top was similar to that of McGregor.
- "Everything is in place for him to become one of the biggest stars this sport has ever seen," Ariel Helwani said.
- Adesanya has been tipped to continue that meteoric rise in his fight this weekend, when he takes on the intimidating, muscular middleweight Yoel Romero at UFC 248 in Las Vegas.
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A flashy kickboxer on a Conor McGregor-esque trajectory in the UFC has been tipped to continue his ass-kicking form this weekend.
Meet 30-year-old striker Israel Adesanya.
He's an unbeaten athlete with a superstar's aura, with a heavy-hitting and fan-friendly fighting style, and a self-belief which the UFC has perhaps not seen since McGregor lit up the featherweight and lightweight divisions in the middle of the last decade.
The 6-foot-4 athlete fought 80 kickboxing bouts while losing only five times, before making his UFC debut in 2018. He became a champion of the premier mixed martial arts organization after only one year.
That remarkable rise prompted the prominent ESPN reporter Ariel Helwani to say Adesanya was comparable to McGregor.
"Not since Conor McGregor have we seen someone burst through the UFC doors like this," Helwani said last year. "Everything is in place for him to become one of the biggest stars this sport has ever seen."
Helwani was commenting after Adesanya knocked out Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in October, 2019, a bout which saw him crowned the middleweight champion.
Adesanya makes the first defense of his championship on Saturday at UFC 248 in the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, and he is expected to defeat his intimidating, muscular opponent, Yoel Romero, because of his strike accuracy, his length, and his mental strength.
"It's an interesting fight," UFC middleweight Tom Breese, from Birmingham in England, told Insider recently.
"MMA is a tough game to predict at times but there's momentum behind Adesanya, and I believe his length will play a role in the bout. I edge towards Adesanya."
On the specific qualities that could make Adesanya topple Romero this weekend, Breese added: "First of all: Mentally, he is very strong. His striking … he has so much striking experience. I don't think anyone has really been able to put him in any situations that he's uncomfortable in. He seems fairly comfortable in striking situations."
Breese said Adesanya had moments of trouble in a tough test in a thrilling bout against Kelvin Gastelum last year, but he overcame Gastelum's southpaw style to wear him down. "He got tired. Adesanya being the bigger man, he wore on him."
Romero, a 42-year-old Cuban, has a record of 13 wins (11 KOs and 2 decisions) against 4 losses (1 KO and 3 decisions).
Breese believes Adesanya will extend his unbeaten run, advancing his record beyond 18 wins (14 KOs and 4 decisions).
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