In his first comments since losing the UFC’s middleweight championship earlier this month, Israel Adesanya said he is “quietly confident” he will beat Sean Strickland if and when the two eventually fight again.
Adesanya (24-3) surrendered his title to Strickland at UFC 293 on Sept. 9 in Sydney, in the biggest upset in the division’s history. Strickland (28-5) dominated Adesanya on the scorecards, earning unanimous 49-46 scores.
Adesanya attended the UFC 293 press conference, but only to say he lost to a “better man” that night in Strickland. The 34-year-old broke his silence on the loss on Tuesday, via his personal YouTube channel.
“I’m quietly confident,” Adesanya said in a video posted on YouTube. “That’s after watching the fight. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I see [what went wrong].
“It felt like a bad dream. Not a nightmare, [because] in a nightmare you’re scared. I was like, you try and hit the guy and it’s just noodle arms. It just felt like a bad dream. Feeling and watching it were completely different. I called [head coach] Eugene Bareman and it was the same thing. We’re quietly confident.”
Whether the UFC elects to book an immediate rematch for the former champion remains to be seen. UFC president Dana White said the rematch is “interesting,” but has not committed to booking it next.
The loss dropped Adesanya to 1-2 in his last three fights. He suffered a knockout loss to longtime kickboxing rival Alex Pereira in a title fight last November, before reclaiming the belt in a a very memorable knockout of Pereira in April. When discussing the date of his next appearance in the Octagon, Adesanya only smiled and said, “We’ll see.”
Strickland, 32, is a former welterweight who is now riding a three-fight win streak. He took advantage of a unique opportunity to fight Adesanya earlier this month. The UFC originally wanted to pair Adesanya with South African contender Dricus du Plessis, but du Plessis wasn’t available due to injury and Adesanya actually campaigned behind the scenes to fight Strickland instead.
Strickland was respectful of Adesanya in comments immediately after the fight, but later questioned the longtime champ’s performance. He went so far as to say it felt like he was fighting an “amateur” at times.
Nevertheless, Adesanya praised Strickland for the win on Tuesday, while maintaining confidence about a potential rematch. He also responded to comments made by some of the other contenders of the division.
“His guard is weird and unorthodox,” Adesanya said of Strickland. “I wasn’t able to find my jab. When I’m able to find my jab, I’m able to find the chin. His guard was good. It was good defense and good offense, well-rounded game … They all delight in my demise, but it’s funny how they all say, ‘If I face that version of Israel, it’d be this or it’d be that. That version. That version’ It’s funny how my opponents say it. So, you understand who I am then? I find that funny.”