UFC: Israel Adesanya was 'prepared to die' against Kelvin Gastelum

Israel Adesanya was 'prepared to die' inside the UFC cage against Kelvin Gastelum in April.

The New Zealand combat sports star claimed the interim UFC middleweight championship in one of the greatest fights in company history. 

The five-round slugfest went to the judges' scorecards, with 'The Last Stylebender' getting a unanimous decision win.

That victory scored Adesanya a trans-Tasman super-fight for the undisputed UFC middleweight title against Australian Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in Melbourne in October.

Speaking to The AM Show, Adesanya admitted he knew his career was on the line against Gastelum and heading into a make-or-break final round, his mindset was kill or be killed.

"You watch that last fight of mine and before the start of the fifth round, I looked at him across the cage, and told him he wouldn't beat me and that I was prepared to die," Adesanya said.

"I meant that and, for me, that means if I am prepared to die, then I am prepared to kill. 

"You have to let go of everything. At that moment right there, I surrendered everything. 

"For me, there are levels to this and you have to be willing to let go of that notion of fear of losing - we are fighting for our lives in there.

"Fear is not a factor, but danger is. Fear is an illusion, but danger is a real thing and I am a dangerous man."

NZ-born Whittaker has attempted to quash what he has called a fabricated personal beef with Adesanya.

'The Reaper' claims he holds no animosity towards his upcoming opponent, but Adesanya believes he has been disrespected by the Sydney-based fighter.

Adesanya said Whittaker's on-camera persona is very different to off-camera whenever they have crossed paths at UFC events.

But Adesanya is happy to go to war with the 28-year-old at Marvel Stadium and earn his respect. 

"After that last fight with Kelvin - after what we did to each other - we have massive respect for each other," Adesanya told The AM Show. 

"I saw him at the MMA awards last month and we compared scars inflicted from that fight - we will always have that 25 minutes we spent in battle.

"Right now, with me and Robert, we have work to do and after the fight, I will make him respect me."

What irks Adesanya more than anything is Whittaker purporting to represent New Zealand, as well as Australia, come October 5.

Born in South Auckland, Whittaker moved to Australia before his first birthday and despite his Māori heritage, he has the Southern Cross tattooed close to his heart and wears the Australian flag to the ring.

Adesanya is amused by what he perceives as Whittaker's desperate attempts to draw in Kiwi fans before the fight.

The Nigerian-born, Auckland-based middleweight has lived in New Zealand for more than half his life and attended Rotorua Boys High School in his youth.

"I love New Zealand, I consider myself from here," he said. "He's been trying to run this campaign that he represents NZ and he is a Kiwi boy. 

"I'm more Kiwi than him. I grew up in Rotorua and Whanganui. I live in Auckland, I am embedded in the culture.

"Put it this way, I am All Black and he is a Wallaby - there is a difference." 

And despite his intense love for what he does, Adesanya doesn't plan on a long career. 

His goal is to win the undisputed title against Whittaker, defend his newly won crown several times and then potentially match up against current UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones. 

"I don't want to be doing this in 10 years," he said. "I'm like a bank robber - I'm here to get in and out, and take all of the money."


Israel Adesanya will be a guest on the Fight Club Podcast on Wenesday.