UFC 234: All respect as Israel Adesanya, Anderson Silva square off in Melbourne

It's official - Kiwi fighter Israel Adesanya will be next in line for a shot at the title should he defeat Anderson Silva at UFC 234 in Melbourne on Sunday.

UFC boss Dana White told both the media and fans gathered at Friday's pre-fight press conference that if Adesanya prevails, 'The Last Style Bender' will advance to take on the winner of the card's main event between Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.

White had earlier said that Silva would be under those very conditions, but confirmed that the same apply with Adesanya.

"This is for the number one contender position," said White, to a roar from the jam-packed Palms at The Crown. "This is it."

Adesanya recalled his initial pleas with White to be awarded the shot at the belt, and admitted the American had taken some convincing.

"After [UFC] 230 I texted him straight after the fight saying I want to fight this guy and he was like 'pump the brakes'," said the 29-year-old. "But when we had the meeting (last November) and spoke face-to-face I told him this ain't my first rodeo. 

"I've been doing this for a long time as well. So the cat's out of the bag and I'm about to be champion, 2019".

It would be the continuation of a startling rise to stardom for Adesanya, who only made his UFC debut in February of 2018 - the first of four-straight victories on his way to a unanimous nod as the promotion's Breakthrough Fighter of the Year.

But first lies the significant challenge of 'The Spider', undoubtedly the greatest middleweight in the history of the UFC and arguably the best to ever grace the Octagon.

UFC 234: All respect as Israel Adesanya, Anderson Silva square off in Melbourne

Age and a two-year hiatus have many rushing to write the 43-year-old's chances off, but Adesanya - who's admitted Silva is one of his idols - was quick to remind that the dream trans-Tasman clash with Whittaker is still far from a given.

"We both have big tests ahead of us," Adesanya said of he and Whittaker's opponents. 

"I've seen the odds this week and I was like, 'man, y'all must have forgot.' I think a lot new fans weren't around during his reign, what it felt like. You might have come around the Ronda Rousey era or the McGregor era. You don't realise who this guy is.

"This guy inspired me to believe a skinny black guy can come in here and f**k everyone up.

"He brought me into this game, and it'll be an honor to take him out of this game."

While Adesanya has openly spoken of the reverence he holds for Silva, the Brazilian - who still holds the record for the longest win-streak in the UFC (16) - also confessed to having been impressed by the Kiwi's feats as a kickboxer.

"I watched videos of Israel on Youtube and would day 'wow, this boy has great talent. Why is he not in the UFC?'

"Israel is a great talent, he has a great future in this sport. I'm very lucky to be able to come here and fight him on this card.

Adesanya has suggested he's studied and watched so many of Silva's fights, that he knows Silva's tendencies as a fighter better than the Brazilian himself.

It was a notion that left Silva slightly bemused, but inspired a take which drew plenty of laughter.

"Israel has studied me a lot and I'm very lucky because I have a fan over here," he said, gesturing towards Adesanya. "And I fight for my fans.

"I'm lucky because I get to help these guys chase their dreams, because one day a guy did the same for me."

The pre-fight formalities continue on Saturday with the weigh-ins, before the fights get underway Sunday at 2pm (NZ time).


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UFC 234: All respect as Israel Adesanya, Anderson Silva square off in Melbourne
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