UFC: Israel Adesanya brushes off retirement talk ahead of potential title rematch against Robert Whittaker

Kiwi UFC star Israel Adesanya said he has no plans of retiring anytime soon despite being set up for life.

The 32-year-old UFC middleweight champion has spoken in the past about retirement, having amassed over 100 fights in his amateur and professional kickboxing career and 22 more bouts in mixed martial arts, but says he will know when it’s time to walk away from the sport he loves.

Speaking to the Mike Hosking Breakfast on Newstalk ZB, Adesanya said that time hasn’t come yet and he’s still enjoying what he does.

“I’m 32 but I’m not looking at retiring,” he said. “I’m setting myself up quite nicely to the point that I won’t have to work – I probably could retire right now if I wanted to but I still enjoy this game.”

Since his UFC debut in 2018, Adesanya has become one of the best and most revered athletes in the sport.

He has a record of 10-1 since joining the premier MMA organisation and remains unbeaten at middleweight, with his one loss coming at the hands of light heavyweight champ Jan Błachowicz where Adesanya fell short of claiming his second UFC title at the higher weight division.

Ahead of his next expected fight, an anticipated rematch against Aussie middleweight Robert Whittaker, Adesanya said despite all his success to date he remains hungry saying he hasn’t reached his limit yet.

“A quote I’ve been revisiting the last few months ‘when you sleep in silk sheets it’s hard to get up in the morning’. For me a lot of people in my position right now wouldn’t show up again until they have their next fight locked up. But I’m showing up to upgrade my skills and help my teammates who will help me over the years. What keeps me going? It’s the passion. It’s the thirst for knowledge. I’m not done.

“I haven’t hit the limit yet. It’s endless. These people don’t understand what’s coming. Against Robert, the first three moves I make on the chessboard in our next fight, our rematch, he’s going to second-guess himself. He’s going to third-guess himself.”

Adesanya said the wait goes on to sort out a date for the Whittaker fight but he is using the time between fights to upskill.

“All I’m doing right now for me is upgrading the software and helping my teammates. They constantly put their bodies on the line and put their time on the line for me. Right now I’ve got an opponent locked in but we don’t have a date yet. It’s on the way but in the meantime I’ve got a few months to kill and get better at martial arts. Because when you’re in camp, you’re trying to get fit…and right now is the best time to upgrade my skill level.”

“I’m lifting a lot lately, if you hadn’t noticed,” he added.

Adesanya also revealed the origin of his natural confidence goes back to dancing to a Michael Jackson song during a high school talent show.

“For me dancing definitely gave me confidence in high school because I wasn’t a popular kid. Dancing was a way I could really stand out and really express myself. I remember the first time during a talent show and people were like ‘what the f*** are you doing on stage?’ I was dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ and when the first verse hit ‘Took my baby to the doctor’ – I did a wave and the whole assembly erupted. I just danced for five minutes and at the end there was a standing ovation,” he said.

“That was one of the first times I got that taste of the crowd roaring. You look at 2019 when I knocked out Robert Whittaker in Marvel Stadium in front of 57,127 people and that feeling’s still there.”

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