UFC 234: Israel Adesanya spars with Kiwi Commonwealth Games boxing star David Nyika

Soaring Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya isn't one to rest on his laurels and that continued quest to "upgrade" has lead him into the ring with an unlikely sparring opponent.

'The Last Stylebender' is in the final stages of preparation for his landmark bout against Brazilian MMA royalty Anderson Silva in Melbourne at UFC 234 next month and has turned to two-time Commonwealth gold medallist boxer David Nyika to further sharpen his already lethal stand-up game.

Nyika's been a regular at Auckland's MMA hotbed of City Kickboxing through the past few weeks, providing the kind of unconventional twist Adesanya loves to include in his fight camps.

"F**k that guy, in the most respectful way," Adesanya laughs, referring to their in-ring action so far.

"I have to box him and he's obviously a specialist. That takes away over half my weapons and forces me to get better at one aspect of my weaponry.

"It goes back and forth, but some days, it just sucks sparring him. I'll still trip him though.

"I'll still throw a little knee here and there, just to keep him honest."

Adesanya believes Nyika - who also fights a few weight classes higher than the middleweight - provides the ideal test of his boxing nous, a level above what he expects to face against 'The Spider'.

"David is a good fit for the team, he's a good fit for my looks. He's way better than Anderson with the hands, obviously with the hands.

"If I can handle him and hang in there with him, I can handle Anderson."

UFC 234: Israel Adesanya spars with Kiwi Commonwealth Games boxing star David Nyika
Photo credit: Getty

Silva is an undisputed MMA icon. His matrix-like exploits on the feet ushered in a new era of striking and spearheaded a new wave of popularity for the sport.

Even Nyika admits to being inspired to put on the gloves by Silva. In Adesanya's eyes, he almost reached hero status, alongside a diverse bunch that includes English featherweight Prince Naseem Hamed, Aaang from Avatar, and Goku from Anime sensation 'Dragonball Z'.

There's been plenty of talk about the mirror-like match-up in terms of style, that Adesanya is a pre-evolutionary version of Silva. The influence is undeniable, but Adesanya insists his brand of combat artistry is uniquely his own.

 "I see what they're saying, because he definitely influenced my style a lot, but at the end of the day, it's about how you convey your artistry, how do you express yourself?

"I feel like my style is mine, uniquely, even though it's been influenced by a lot of people over the years - and Silva's one of them."

Not even Adesanya's loftiest, most ambitious dreams included a scenario where he'd stare across the Octagon and lock eyes with Anderson Silva.

UFC 234: Israel Adesanya spars with Kiwi Commonwealth Games boxing star David Nyika

"I teased it in my head, like 'man, it'd be cool to fight him', but I thought he'd be retired by the time I got there... but the man is still around."

The 43-year-old Silva hasn’t fought in more than two years and it’s safe to say his best years are well behind him. That said, such greatness tends to age gracefully - and there was no chance Adesanya was letting an opportunity to duel with his hero pass him by.

"I felt I had to take this fight. If I didn’t, it'd have been a travesty that I'd regret for the rest of my life - the chance to fight someone who I revered so much."

Not that he's going to be even the slightest bit starstruck at Rod Laver Arena come February 10.

"I see him and it's just another guy with gloves on. I'm just going to do what I do."

A victory over Silva in the co-main event would put Adesanya at the front of the queue to take on the main-event winner between Australia's Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum - and the Aucklander can't resist taking a peak ahead.

"I'll beat Anderson, I think Robert's going to win and then I've already planned what I'm going to do next. Everything's working out exactly how I planned."

You can bet that next step involves a UFC belt around his waist and with it, a place in Kiwi sporting history.

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