Blood Diamond clicked with current UFC middleweight champion Adesanya and the two African-born Kiwis became fast friends. They trained together, travelled abroad to compete in kickboxing events together, roomed together and even cornered each other while fighting in China.
“The world knows him as Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya, but to me he’s just the same Iz I met all those years back,” says the 170-pounder fondly. “And he’s kept the same energy the whole time. He’s my brother.”
After competing in more kickboxing bouts than he can accurately recall, Mathetha eventually followed his good buddy across to MMA.
“Basically, I was finding it hard to get opponents in kickboxing. Things had gone really quiet. Then Eugene told me that if I had some MMA experience, I would get heaps of fights,” recalls the up-and-comer.
Blood Diamond took that advice, put together a 3-0 record in mixed martial arts and scored a contract with the UFC. However, his initial bout against Jeremiah Wells at UFC 271 didn’t go according to plan, with the New Zealander finding himself submitted at the end of the first round.
“You live and you learn,” he concludes, noting, “Last time, you didn’t really get to see anything of me. I’d be an idiot if I fell for the same move twice. This time, I’ve got to be more patient.”
Indeed, Israel Adesanya echoed these sentiments on his YouTube channel, pointing out that plenty of people lose their debut MMA fights.