UFC 236: Israel Adesanya's head coach Eugene Bareman discusses Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker

City Kickboxing sensei Eugene Bareman has been an extraordinarily busy coach over the last 12 months.

Head trainer at Auckland's combats sports headquarters, Bareman's roster of four UFC fighters have seen him operate in an endless cycle of fight camps, and it's been Israel Adesanya's staggering work rate that has been responsible for the majority of those.

On Sunday (NZ time), the undefeated Nigerian-born Kiwi will enter the Octagon for the sixth time in little over a year at UFC 236 in Atlanta, and Bareman will be right there in his shadow yet again.

This time the stakes are much higher, with the UFC interim middleweight title on the line in a co-main event clash against Kelvin Gastelum (15-3).

The hard-hitting Mexican-American boasts a highly technical boxing game built on a solid foundation of wrestling. He's coming off a head-turning win over perennial title contender 'Jacare' Souza, and was slated to challenge Robert Whittaker for the belt, before the Australian's late injury scratching saw the bout cancelled.

But taking into account Adesanya's enormous advantage in both reach and height, this time around the game plan is relatively straightforward.

UFC 236: Israel Adesanya's head coach Eugene Bareman discusses Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker

"Our path to victory is controlling where we want the fight to be," Bareman told Newshub.

"We've got a fighter who's short and a fighter who's tall and there's already some basic equations that you can make right there."

Bareman says Gastelum will need to be the aggressor to close the sizeable distance the longer-limbed Adesanya will have the luxury of operating at.

"The taller fighter wants to keep the smaller fighter from coming in and the smaller fighter needs to get in. At a very basic level, that's the battle that's going on, and whoever wins that battle is going to win this fight."

That high frequency of fight camps has meant that there's been little time for the adding of new tricks, with the focus more on sharpening the many and varied tools Adesanya already has at his disposal.

"We're just taking care of the really small details, the small intricacies that we need to account for against this opponent.

"We already have a solid base because we've been doing this for a long time. But it's the little things on the edge that we need to care of – an inch there, a centimetre there, that we really need to hone in on. It's just been that refinement in these last couple of weeks."

Bareman has been at Adesanya's side since his amateur days, watching and helping him grow from a kid from Whanganui with a dream into one of the UFC's most marketable rising stars.

UFC 236: Israel Adesanya's head coach Eugene Bareman discusses Kelvin Gastelum, Robert Whittaker

Should Adesanya do what he's keenly favoured to do against Gastelum and secure the interim middleweight title, it will set up a blockbuster Anzac clash against NZ-born Whittaker to consolidate the belts, which will likely take place in Australia around August.

According to Bareman, both Gastelum and Whittaker represent the division's high watermark. The duo will be levelling up in Georgia this weekend, and Gastelum looms as the final stage's penultimate boss.

"I think those are the two most talented guys and the two guys who can consistently perform, because there are a lot of middleweights in this division that can't - that have ups and down."

Unsurprisingly, Bareman has no doubts as to which of the three will eventually emerge from the rubble.

"Israel's my guy. Me and him have developed together for the last seven or eight years, so I'm backing him against anybody. There'll be problems and difficulties along the way, but I'll definitely always back him."


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