UFC 236: Israel Adesanya all business, as history awaits against Kelvin Gastelum

New Zealand's Israel Adesanya is on the cusp of Kiwi sporting immortality.

On Sunday (NZ time), he'll square off against Kelvin Gastelum with a chance to become the first New Zealander to claim a UFC world title.

But 'The Last Stylebender' insists such accolades are merely by-products - a bonus awarded for doing what he loves to do best and what he plans on doing to Gastelum on Sunday (NZ time).

"I don’t focus too much on what's at stake," Adesanya told Newshub. "Because it doesn't really matter to me, at the end of the day.

"If the belt wasn’t on the line, it'd just be me and Kelvin fighting, and I'm still going to whoop his ass."

Like all showmen, the 29-year-old yearns for the stage - where he can showcase the fruits of his labour by testing his natural, albeit hard-earned, abilities against the best the sport has to offer.

That desire has driven him to become one of the UFC's most active fighters. This bout will mark his sixth in only 14 months, a dizzying rise from debut to superstardom.

In each of those bouts, he's taken a step up in the quality of his opponents and this weekend's contest against Mexican-American Gastelum will continue that trend.

UFC 236: Israel Adesanya all business, as history awaits against Kelvin Gastelum

"What matters to me is showing off my skillset against a fresh guy who's a dangerous opponent and at the end, I just get a belt and I'm like, 'oh that’s right, there's a belt on the line'."

Sitting fourth in the divisional rankings, Gastelum was scheduled to fight champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 234 in Melbourne in February, before the Australian's last-minute withdrawal with an abdominal injury forced its cancellation.

That meant Adesanya's bout against Anderson Silva was promoted to the main event at Rod Laver, while Gastelum was reduced to Octagon-side spectator.

With Whittaker on the shelf and facing a lengthy rehabilitation, the UFC opted to create an interim middleweight title, which Adesanya and Gastelum will contest in Atlanta. The winner will then advance to take on Whittaker - who's due back in action in August - to consolidate the two belts.

The undefeated Adesanya (16-0) will have his work cut out for him against Gastelum. On top of his exceptional wrestling foundation, the 27-year-old is also one of the division's most technical boxers, with six KO finishes to his name.

"I've seen him fight before. I know how he moves, his tendencies and stuff, but I'm not dwelling on it, because it could change on the night in an instant.

"I'm not worrying about his past work, I look forward to fighting a fresh and new man."

UFC 236: Israel Adesanya all business, as history awaits against Kelvin Gastelum

Adesanya's exceptionally high frequency of fights means he's essentially existed in an endless cycle of training camps at Auckland's City Kickboxing - the Auckland hot-spot that's become one of the sport's premier gyms.

His focus remains on staying primed for battle and fighting his own fight, leaving the minutiae of game-planning to his expert array of coaches, led by head trainer Eugene Bareman.

"We can adjust, even on the fly... call an audible, if I have to. At the moment, I'm really just keeping that same energy and I'm just focussing on me.

"Just another fight, just another day."


Join us for live udpates of Adesanya vs Gastelum at UFC 236 from 3pm Sunday