UFC 253: Israel Adesanya dedicates win over Paulo Costa to people getting bullied

Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya hopes his performance against Paulo Costa serves as an inspiration for anyone who has been subjected to bullying.

At UFC 253, Adesanya obliterated Brazilian Costa with a second-round TKO win to successfully defend his belt and extend his unbeaten mixed martial arts record to 20-0. 

Adesanya has often spoken out against bullying, talking about his own experiences at school, and earlier this year, he took aim at New Zealand's 'tall poppy syndrome', blasting the country's obsession for putting successful people down. 

The Nigerian-born Kiwi is often referred to as the 'skinny guy' of the UFC, but that didn't matter against Costa, who is considered one of the sport's muscular fighters. 

"My narrative for this fight, because everybody was saying he's a bully, he walks people down," says Adesanya. 

"And it's not news to anyone that I've been bullied my whole life. For me, back then, I didn't really have the skill or the will to fight back. 

"Now I know what to do. I have the will and the skill to take the bite out of the bully.

"Even some of the [stuff] he did online... Back then, we didn't have that, when I was growing up, but now kids go through that social-media bullying and he was trying to do that to me.

"It's like he was trying to trigger out the younger Izzy, but you do that and you get the big dog in the yard now.

"I dedicate this fight to anyone, whether it be at school or at home or at work, if your boss is grinding you. I dedicate this fight to you guys, because you have to fight back.

"You can't just take that all the time - you have to bite back."

Israel Adesanya.
Israel Adesanya. Photo credit: Getty

Last year, Adesanya told The AM Show that he was still friends on Facebook with some of the people who bullied him at school.

"They've seen me now," he said. "I keep some of them on my Facebook, so they can see how I'm shining.

"In my head, I look at my bullies. I still see them as bigger than me, but when I go back to Rotorua, I'm like, 'I was scared of you?'

"Be nice to people - you never know who you're messing with."

Being bullied was an inspiration for Adesanya to take up combat sports and now he's one of the biggest fighters in the world, but he knows he has lots more work to do, if he wants to be considered one of the greatest. 

"For me, it's about the victories, the names you collect, the scalps you take along the way," he says. "If I had lost this tonight, I wouldn't care about [the belt], I would have been sad I lost the fight.

"All I care about is fighting. This is just nice, because cheddar makes it better.

"It brings more money, more notoriety, but I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and my legacy will be cemented in time."