UFC 259: Israel Adesanya promises to 'rise like phoenix' after first MMA loss

Kiwi UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has taken his first loss as a professional MMA fighter in his stride.

At UFC 259 in Las Vegas on Sunday (NZ time), 'The Last Stylebender' was ground to a unanimous decision loss against Jan Blachowicz in his attempt to become just the fifth fighter ever to hold two simultaneous championship belts.

'The Last Stylebender' was quick to offer his congratulations to Blachowicz, admitting his Polish opponent deserved his victory in more ways than one.

"Losses are part of life. Losses are something I deal with occasionally," Adesanya said.

"Just this is my first one in MMA. As I say, it is what it is. If I was going to lose to anyone, what better guy to lose to than a guy like Jan?"

Blachowicz's victory was his fifth straight, continuing the 38-year-old veteran's remarkable career resurgence.

"(He’s) a classy champion, a cool dude, a very nice guy – a guy who has a great story in himself. 

On his way to getting cut from the company, comes back and then dominates and becomes the light heavyweight champion and then hands this guy, a future legend, his first loss. 

"Yeah, if I was going to lose to anyone, I’m glad I lost to him."

Blachowicz powered home through the second half of the bout, using his size advantage and vaunted grappling to get Adesanya to the mat, where he was able to control the Kiwi to the closing bell to make a strong impression on the judges.

The brash Adesanya believes the fight was there for him to claim, but Blachowicz was simply more disciplined with the execution of his gameplan, insisting he's far from demoralised by his debut defeat.

"Honestly, I could've won this fight," Adesanya said. 

Adesanya applauds his victorious opponent in Las Vegas.
Adesanya applauds his victorious opponent in Las Vegas. Photo credit: Getty

"Tonight he played a better game plan, and he was the better fighter tonight. That's it. He respected me, and I respected him, and we had a great showing of ourselves. 

"I'm not heartbroken. I hate losing, don't get me wrong. But I'm not like, 'Oh my god. f**k, he really embarrassed me. I felt like I had a great showing for myself.

"I represented my team very well. Now we go back to the drawing board. It's kind of fun. 

"This is the dip in my story….this is the valley, if you will. Then, I'll rise again like the phoenix that I am."

While Adesanya conceded Blachowicz was the better fighter on the night, he did take some exception with the judges scorecards, which awarded two 10-8 rounds to his opponent in a contest that was much closer than those margins suggested.

"It wasn't that big of a difference," he said. "I don't know about those 10-8 rounds, I don't know about some of the scorecards from those judges.

"I lost the fight to the better fighter tonight, the craftier fighter tonight and, but it wasn't like an ass whooping or anything like that. 

"When he had me on the ground, you know if he postured up and weld on me and thrown some crazy elbows and crazy punches that connected crazy then yeah, I can say give it a 10-8, 10-7 even, use the whole 10-point must system.

"But, there was none of that, he just held on and snuck some shots in and kept it busy enough that the referee doesn't stand it up, and that's a veteran move, because he's a veteran in this game."

Adesanya's next move will be a return to his home at middleweight for an eventual third title defence, although he's adamant that more fights at light heavyweight are in his future.

"You'll see me back at 205 later in the future, but right now I've got a division I've got to dominate," Adesanya said. 

"I know they’re probably thinking, 'Oh, that's it. He just got taken down.' Alright, cool. But Ill remind them again why I'm the king at 185."

The issue now is finding a legitimate contender in a division where he's already beaten six of the top 15 ranked fighters.

The prospect of a bout against Darren Till is an intriguing clash of styles that has long interested Adesanya and his City Kickboxing team.

But the Englishman first needs to prove his credentials in his bout against Marvin Vettori next month, coming off a loss to Robert Whittaker in July that was his third defeat in four fights.

The winner of the Robert Whittaker v Paulo Costa fight in April is another option, although both are tough sells, having already been soundly beaten by Adesanya.

Either way, Adesanya guarantees his next opponent will pay the price for his 

"I've already stated I would like to fight Till if he can get it done," Adesanya said. 

"But who is the most deserving? We'll have to wait and see. Show me something. I know they all think, ‘That's it. We’ve seen the chink in his armor now.’ 

"But I’ll tell you one thing: Every time in my life that I've lost in combat sports, I come back and I f**k the next guy up. I knock them out, because guess what? My team and I, we actually go back and do the work."