A Nigerian, Israel Adesanya, has emerged as the new the Ultimate Fighting Championship, UFC middleweight interim champion.
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 who is based in New Zealand beat American Kelvin Gastelum by a unanimous decision to lift the UFC middleweight interim belt in a fight of the year contender on Saturday night.
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, all three judges scored the fight – that was closer than many expected – 48-46 in favour of Adesanya. Both fighters finished the bout with blood smeared faces.
Born in Nigeria, ‘The Last Stylebender’ as Adesanya is fondly referred to moved to New Zealand when he was 13. His entire fighting career has been based out of his adopted country.
“I was willing to give it all and leave it all in there.
“I’m the champion, let’s go,” Adesanya told journalists immediately after Saturday’s bloody fight.
The victory by Adesanya is coming barely 4 weeks after another Nigerian, Kamaru Usman, became the first African to win a UFC Belt. Kamaru who is the current UFC Welterweight Champion has already congratulated his compatriot for a job well-done.
He wrote on his twitter handle: Congrats to my brother @stylebender we don land 👊🏾👊🏾🇳🇬🇳🇬 #kingsSupportKings