Israel Adesanya, a Nigerian, has become the UFC middleweight interim champion.
Emerging top at the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Adesanya who is based in New Zealand beat America’s Kelvin Gastelum by a unanimous decision to lift the UFC middleweight interim belt in a fight of the year contender.
The latest victory means Adesanya remains unbeaten in the UFC with a 6-0 record and sets up a dream trans-Tasman unification bout with reigning middleweight champion.
At the end of the five rounds, both fighters finished the bout with blood smeared faces; and all three judges scored the fight – that was closer than many expected – 48-46 in favour of Adesanya.
Adesanyan who is fondly referred to as the ‘The Last Stylebender’ was born in Nigeria but moved to New Zealand when he was 13-years-old.
The champion whose entire fighting career has been outside Nigeria spoke to journalists with excitement, stating that: “I was willing to give it all and leave it all in there. I’m the champion, let’s go.”
Interim titles are awarded when the original champion is unable to compete for a long period of time. It prevents the top end of a division from stalling and once the original champion is able to return, they are generally required to fight the interim titleholder in a unification bout.
Adesanya’s victory is coming barely a month after Kamaru Usman, another Nigerian, became the first African to win a UFC Belt.
The current UFC Welterweight Champion has already extended his congratulations to the new champion. “Congrats to my brother @stylebender we don land… #kingsSupportKings,” Usman wrote via his Twitter handle @USMAN84kg.