UFC: Israel Adesanya, Kelvin Gastelum square off at UFC 236 press conference

Gastulm and Adesanya on stage in Las Vegas.
Gastulm and Adesanya on stage in Las Vegas. Photo credit: Getty

Interim or not, New Zealand's Israel Adesanya didn't need to think too long when offered the shot at the UFC middleweight belt he'd long coveted.

Adesanya has fought a staggering five fights in just 12 months since his UFC debut and announced he'd finally take a break after his win over Anderson Silva in Melbourne last month.

Fast forward a matter of weeks later and 'The Last Stylebender' signed on to face Kelvin Gastelum for the division's interim title at UFC 236 in April, following a plan concocted in New York City, after his TKO win over Derek Brunson.

"Interim belt or non-interim, we [Dana White] had a deal," Adesanya said at the UFC 236 press conference in Las Vegas on Saturday (NZ time).

"When we sat down, we shook on it. After the fight with Anderson Silva, I get a belt in my next fight and I'm going to do that."

With current middleweight champion Robert Whittaker set for an extended injury layoff, the UFC opted to keep the division's championship picture in frame by introducing the interim title, effectively deciding the number one contender to the Australian's strap.

Not even a fully paid and booked family trip was enough to deter the undefeated 29-year-old from immediately returning into yet another fight camp.

"I lost money, but some things are more important than money.

"Momentum is a powerful force - it just keeps on rolling - and on April 13, I'm going to roll over Kelvin."

The two fighters squared off for the first time at the conclusion of the press conference, where Adesanya took the opportunity to poke fun at Gastelum's considerably shorter frame.

The Nigerian-born Kiwi also revealed some sage words of advice and the metaphorical passing of the torch he'd received from Brazilian great Silva, after their main event clash at UFC 234.

"They always say don’t meet your heroes, because you might get disappointed. But I met him, I beat him and I wasn't disappointed.

"After the fight, he said to me 'you're the best now. I passed the baton on to you'.

"He told me not to lose my focus and I said I've seen the vulture circling. He re-assured me that I'm on the right path."