Adesanya prepares for title fight

Israel Adesanya (right) and Kelvin Gastelum face off alongside UFC president Dana White ahead of...
Israel Adesanya (right) and Kelvin Gastelum face off alongside UFC president Dana White ahead of their title fight. Photo: Getty Images
Israel Adesanya has evolved.

It's a simple matter of continually improving his game he climbs through the UFC rankings. Now, with a chance to claim UFC gold, the Kiwi middleweight wasn't pulling punches when discussing how he felt about his bout against American Kelvin Gastelum in Atlanta next weekend.

"I feel confident – I feel very confident going into this fight."

Gastelum, a strong striker with a reliable ground game, will be the biggest test Adesanya has faced so far in his mixed martial arts career. With the interim middleweight title on the line, Adesanya wouldn't expect anything else.

In preparation for the bout, he's had the luxury to train with fellow City Kickboxing stars including Dan Hooker and Kai Kara France, as well as Frank Hickman – the head wrestling coach at the renowned Tiger Muay Thai gym in Phuket.

"There's been ups and downs, smiles and frowns – like any other camp," Adesanya said.

"To be honest, since it's a world title fight, a lot of people are projecting more of their own insecurities, like 'oh are you ready of this?' – I've been ready for all the other fights so I keep that same energy. It's just another fight – you take the belt away and it's still me and Kelvin. The belt's just a nice trophy you get at the end."

Now in the final stages of his seven-week camp Adesanya, undefeated in 16 professional bouts, was set for some tough sessions before winding down for fight week.

"The second to last week is a pretty hard week for us," head coach Eugene Bareman said.

"We tend to train pretty hard then taper off toward the end of the week and definitely next week.

"There is going to be some blood spilled and some tears shed before the end of the week, I can tell you that for sure.

"That's how you've got to prepare for these competitions."

When the bout was announced, Bareman gave Adesanya an extra week off before coming into training camp to give him a bit more down time after fighting five times in his first year with the UFC.

It's stark contrast to his American counterpart, who has only fought in the octagon four times since the start of 2016 but holds a 15-3 record with six victories by knockout and four by submission.

"Technically we have a lot of respect for Gastelum and what he does," Bareman said. "This will be the hardest fight of Israel's MMA career so far because of what Gastelum brings to the table.

"It puts us on the edge but it's good; it makes us work, it makes us be sharp, it makes us take care of everything."

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