Israel Adesanya returns to the middleweight division at UFC 263 on Saturday, June 12, in a fight that already feels much different than his last.
In March, Adesanya moved up to the light heavyweight division to challenge current champion Jan Blachowicz for the title. The lead-up to his attempt at becoming a two-division champion was relatively uneventful and as the two champions shared respect for each other.
That feeling is unlike what we’re experiencing before Adesanya’s title defense at UFC 263, however, as he is set to face #3 middleweight contender Marvin Vettori in the main event of the ESPN+ exclusive pay-per-view event this Saturday night.
Adesanya and Vettori have formed a heated rivalry following their first fight in April 2018, and the champion has labeled this as a personal fight.
“Oh, yeah, definitely [is a personal fight],” Adesanya told Combat TV when asked if this fight with Vettori was personal.
“He didn’t shake my hand after the last fight after I whooped his ass, so after I whoop his ass again I won’t let him shake my hand. I’ll leave no doubt in his head that he’s not even on my level, he’s not even on my caliber, that’s the point I’m trying to prove to him.
“I’m going to punch him in the face and knee him in the mouth because this guy needs to pay for every single bullshit he said about me and all of the dumb little, the petty little shit, that he’s done. Even I’m petty myself, but I never really put it on him the way I should have. His time will come — another ten days and his time will come.”
Vettori added to Adesanya’s frustrations over the weekend during an interview moderated by Michael Bisping. The heated rivalry was on full display as Vettori adamantly argued that he didn’t lose the first fight with Adesanya.
“That wasn’t a loss,” Vettori said. “Everyone believes in this guy’s hype and I’m here to just derail it one more time, once for all, and settle the score.”
In return, Adesanya promised that he has made more significant improvements to his game than Vettori has in the time following the fight in 2018.
“If we’re talking about improvements, if you look at my improvements over how many fights and his improvements over how many fights it’s vastly different,” Adesanya stated. “We’re not the same. We’re not even in the same stratosphere, we’re not even in the same realm.”
There’s more to Adesanya’s increased motivation before UFC 263, as well. After losing to Blachowicz in March, Adesanya now feels that fight fans are underselling his talents.
“People do this to me,” Adesanya told Combat TV. “They forget. [They say] ‘He sucks, he’s this, he’s that,’ and then I come in and I whoop someone crazy and they’re like ‘oh, shit.’ Nothing’s going to be different this time, I’m just going to go in there and whoop this guy crazy.”
UFC 263 takes place this Saturday, June 12, at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, United States. The event is an