In just over four years on MMA’s biggest stage, Adesanya has developed into one of the sport’s biggest stars. While his 2019 championship crowning, subsequent defenses, and unbeaten middleweight record have played a big part in that, his eccentric personality, pre-fight dance moves, and online presence have also aided that growth.
Now, as his reign atop the 185-pound mountain continues, “The Last Stylebender” is mixing with the stars whom he once looked up to, from DMs with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to podcast appearances with Mike Tyson, and even a dose of commentary duty for Tyson vs. Roy Jones Jr.
While fighting success leads to fame, that increased notoriety brings with it added attention. And given his prominence in his home country of New Zealand, Israel Adesanya has had his fair shares of fan interactions.
While some are respectful and polite, others, the champ says, go the other way.
During a recent appearance on New Zealand show, The Rock, Adesanya described the entitled nature with which some fans approach him, recalling one particular incident he experienced while sat in a car at traffic lights.
“People forget, I’ll be having a talk with you… just chilling, and then we’ll be having a conversation and a smart person who normally has manners and respect will completely disregard the person I’m talking to and interject themselves into the conversation,” said Adesanya. “And they always say the same thing, they think they’re special, ‘I don’t mean to be that guy, I’m sorry,’ yeah, but you’re being that guy! You’re doing it right now, you’re being that guy.
“It’s not like I’m against taking photos, because she (fan outside interview location) was respectful, the girl outside. I could tell by the energy as well, she wasn’t entitled, ’cause a lot of people — okay, a weird one… we were at the lights right, chilling, it was a nice day, window down… outta nowhere, I didn’t even hear this guy, I just literally — Boom, ‘Bro, I gotta get a photo,'” recalled Adesanya. “I was like, ‘ What the f*ck.’ At the lights! … I was like ‘Who the f*ck are you.’ He was like, ‘Bro, I’m a big fan… You’re famous.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m human, f*ck off,’ and I wound up the window.”
But while he’s experienced his fair share of rude individuals, not every interaction is a negative one. The key, Adesanya said, is for fans to respect his boundaries, even if they’re met with an answer that they weren’t anticipating or hoping for.
“This is what I mean. I think it’s learned behavior as well,” suggested Adesanya. “People have seen what they think they’re supposed to be like when they see a ‘famous person’ on TV. It’s always the same rhetoric, ‘I’m your biggest fan, blah, blah, blah.’
“You have moments like that, but then you have beautiful moments like the one outside, where she was respectful, and you have people who respect your boundaries, and that’s one thing I’ve got really good at lately… saying no, and having people respect your no,” added Adesanya.
Should Israel Adesanya’s stardom continue to grow, something a victory over Jared Cannonier next month at UFC 276 would help, the Nigerian-New Zealander can likely expect more and more public exchanges with his fans.