Israel Adesanya Through the years

Israel Adesanya was born in Lagos, Nigeria. He was the oldest of five children when he. His mother Taiwo is a nurse, while his father Oluwafemi is an accountant.

Adesanya was a student at Chrisland School in Opebi. He was a member of the Taekwondo club after school until his mother had him withdraw owing to an injury. Since his parents wanted their children to receive a good education, they decided to live in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Adesanya attended Rotorua Boys’ High School in New Zealand. When he was in high school, Adesanya was not interested in athletics. Instead, he was drawn to Japanese anime like ‘Death Note’ and ‘Naruto’. Adesanya faced bullying in high school, and he attributes his subsequent choice to learn martial arts to the harassment he endured.

Adesanya enrolled in a Bachelor of Science in Computer Design programme at the Universal College of Learning in Whanganui after finishing high school. He began training in kickboxing at the age of 18 after seeing the Muay Thai movie ‘Ong-Bak’, which served as his inspiration. Adesanya decided to stop studying two years later in order to pursue a career in kickboxing.

Adesanya’s mother and father

He went on to compile a 32-0 amateur record before going professional and competing in China. Adesanya relocated to Auckland, New Zealand, at the age of 21.

This is where he started training in mixed martial arts at City Kickboxing under Eugene Bareman with future UFC competitors like Dan Hooker, Kai Kara-France, and current UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski. Under the guidance of the Romanian-New Zealander Andrei Păuleţ, he practises wrestling.


Adesanya with his coach Eugene Bareman

Adesanya trains with some of the greatest MMA competitors, including UFC icon Alexander Volkanovski

Adesanya is multilingual and can speaks English, Nigerian Pidgin, and Yoruba fluently.

Early on in his career Adesanya defeated Tim Antonio via unanimous decision, which started his seven-bout winning streak. He qualified for the 2014 Kunlun Fight 80 kg event thanks to his winning run.

Adesanya competed in Glory 15 and faced Filip Verlinden. Adesanya ended up losing the match via unanimous decision. Two years after their first bout, the two of them squared off again at Glory of Heroes 3. This time, Adesanya took the victory by unanimous decision.

Adesanya took part in the regional circuit’s King in the Ring Cruiserweights II competition in New Zealand. He defeated Jamie Eades by knockout to win the competition.

Israel Adesanya with former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou
Israel Adesanya with former UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman

Adesanya competed in 2015 The Heavyweights III after moving up in weight. Before taking on Jamie Eades in the finals, he beat Nase Foai by TKO in the quarterfinal and Dan Roberts by KO in the semifinal. The two had previously faced one another in the cruiserweight championship final in 2014. Adesanya ended up winning the match against Eades and took home the tournament’s grand prize.

Adesanya in his match against Jamie Eades

In his subsequent five bouts, Adesanya won all of them. He competed notably against Bogdan Stoica and Yousri Belgaroui. However, he lost to Future GLORY middleweight champion Alex Pereira, who defeated him via unanimous decision.

Adesanya vs Alex Peteira in their first encounter

Before switching to mixed martial arts, his last kickboxing encounter was a rematch with Alex Pereira at Glory of Heroes 7. After dropping Adesanya with a short left hook in the third round, Pereira knocked out his opponent to win the bout.

Adesanya vs Pereira face off

2012 saw Adesanya make his professional debut, defeating James Griffiths by TKO. Before taking a two-year break from mixed martial arts, he defeated John Vake by TKO.

Adesanya defeats James Griffiths

Adesany began his professional boxing career in November 2014. He faced Daniel Ammann, a two-time Australian champion. Adesanya to have outclassed Ammann in the quarterfinals before losing in a controversial unanimous decision.

Adesanya reentered the Super 8 competition in May 2015. He defeated fellow New Zealander Asher Derbyshire in his debut professional matchup. Adesanya defeated his opponent in the second round via knockout. Adesanya also defeated Zane Hopman in the semifinals by unanimous decision before defeating Lance Bryant in the title bout to retain his cruiserweight title.

Daniel Ammann competes against Israel Adesanya at Super 8 Fight Night on November 22, 2014
Adesanya vs Zane Hopman face off

In August 2015, he made a comeback to mixed martial arts, defeating Song Kenan by TKO. He defeated Melvin Guillard by first-round TKO at Australia Fighting Championship 20 to win the AFC Middleweight Championship. Additionally, he defeated Stuart Dare in the first round to win the Hex Fight Series Middleweight Championship.

Adesanya’s deal with the UFC was revealed to have been inked in December 2017. At UFC 221 in February 2018, he faced Rob Wilkinson in his professional debut. He won the match in the second round via technical knockout victory. Adesanya ended up winning the Performance of the Night bonus for this victory.

Opponents Rob Wilkinson and Israel Adesanya face off during the UFC 221 weigh-in
Adesanya vs Rob Wilkinson

At the TUF 27 finale held in July 2018, Adesanya competed against Brad Tavares. Adesanya won the match by unanimous decision and received his second Performance of the Night award.

Israel Adesanya and Brad Tavares face off
Israel Adesanya vs Brad Tavares

In February 2019, Adesanya competed against former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. He won the match via unanimous decision.

Israel Adesanya defeats Anderson Silva

In April 2019, Adesanya contested for the interim UFC middleweight championship against Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event of UFC 236. The three judges scored the back-and-forth match 48-46 for him to win by unanimous decision.

Israel Adesanya vs Kelvin Gastelum
Adesanya celebrates his win over Kelvin Gastelum

In October 2019, Adesanya took on Robert Whittaker in the main event of UFC 243 for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Adesanya won the match via knockout in the second round.

Israel Adesanya vs Robert Whittaker

Adesanya competed against unbeaten competitor Paulo Costa in September 2020 at UFC 253. Since 2009, this was the first title bout between two male mixed martial artists without a loss. Adesanya won the match in the second round via a technical knockout.

Following the match, Adesanya’s right-breast gynecomastia raised questions about probable PED use. But he said it was caused by his mar***ana use.

Adesanya with his right-breast gynecomastia

In June 2021, Adesanya faced Marvin Vettori once again for the UFC middleweight championship in the main event of UFC 263. All three judges gave the match a unanimous 50-45 score for Adesanya.

Israel Adesanya vs Marvin Vettori

In November 2022 at UFC 281, Adesanya faced Alex Pereira who had previously defeated him. Adesanya suffered his first defeat at middleweight via a technical knocked out in the fifth round of the match.

Adesanya vs Pereira face off

In April 2023 at UFC 287, a rematch between Pereira and Adesanya for the UFC Middleweight Championship took place. In the second round, Adesanya knocked out Pereira to win the both the match and the title.

After the match, Adesanya even performed Pereira’s celebratory move while standing over his body in order to taunt him. Additionally, he also mocked Pereira’s son from the cage. This led to a lot of controversy.

Adesanya with his father

Israel Adesanya has often been mocked and trolled about his sexuality. As of yet, he has never publicly expressed his sexuality. But it has generated a lot of discussion on numerous social media sites.

Adesanya’s prior actions raised the suspicion of certain fans who assumed he was homosexual. A 2020 photo of Adesanya with pink hair sparked social media discussions regarding his sexual orientation.

However, Adesanya has been open about his sexuality and says he is comfortable with expressing both his masculine and feminine sides. The middleweight champion recently released a documentary ‘Stylebender.’ It had its world debut on June 11, 2023, at Tribeca Festival.