Nigeria’s Israel Adesanya successfully fended off Yoel Romero’s bid for his middleweight title with a unanimous-decision win in the main event of UFC 248 from Las Vegas in the early hours of today.
The Last Stylebender scored the win in a bizarre, uneventful affair that saw both fighters mostly play it safe, with fans booing after the fight as it was not the match-up they expected.
In winning the unanimous decision, Adesanya won on all of the judges scorecards to retain his middleweight title to extend his undefeated record to 19-0 and solidifies himself as the best middleweight on the planet.
The 30-year-old added one of the scariest fighters in the division to a list of victims that already includes Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum.
Adesanya’s ascent to UFC stardom has been drastic. He made his UFC debut in February 2018 and has skyrocketed to impressive champion in 2020.
Now, the Nigerian-born fighter will likely turn his focus to other challengers in the middleweight division, although he seems to have set his sights on an even bigger picture.
Adesanya’s coach, Eugene Bareman, has acknowledged the middleweight division has more than one contender the champion should beat before looking beyond his division.
“There’s some really tough challenges. He should clear those out,” Bareman said on Submission Radio (h/t Farah Hannoun of MMA Junkie).
“There’s at least three or four more good challenges. But three or four more fights for Israel is like, maybe within this year. So after that, what’s the next challenge?”
Still, his vision goes beyond those challenges. Paulo Costa and/or Jared Cannonier might be intriguing matchups, but Adesanya hasn’t shied away from beef with light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and Bareman even mentioned Adesanya eventually moving up to heavyweight.
Those are obviously big, transcendent goals. He has the potential to capture the imagination of MMA fandom in a way few fighters have been able to. But it all starts with picking up big wins in his own division like he did against Romero in Vegas.