From victim of bullying to UFC champion

Next Saturday, Nigeria-born MMA fighter Israel Adesanya will attempt to be the fourth person to be a two-belt UFC world champion. Israel Adesanya is currently the middleweight champion. Next Saturday he will fight in the octagon against Polish fighter Jan Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title.

This won’t be an easy fight for Adesanya. However, this is not the first time Adesanya has faced tough challenges. During his life he had to overcome various obstacles both physical and psychological. Surely no one can say that the road to his success was an easy one.

The first challenge he faced was at the age of 10, when he and his parents and four younger siblings moved to New Zealand. At first he had no interest in sports. He attended a school from which several sports stars emerged. There he encountered a lot of bullying for the simple reason that he had a dark complexion. In an interview he gave, Adesanya had said he had never realized he was black until he went to this school.

The episode stayed with him and on his way home a boy constantly taunted him telling him “black boy, go back to your country,” His academic ability and love for dance made him more susceptible to bullying. However, these painful episodes, the physical and emotional injuries he suffered led him to embark on a career in martial arts. He says his love for dance helped him develop his fighting style.

The turning point in his life was when he saw the martial arts film Ong Bak. This film had such a profound effect on him that he stopped studying computer science to pursue a career in kickboxing. He held the record as an amateur in 32-0 kickboxing.

Following his success in kickboxing, at the age of 21 he continued to train in MMA. Despite losing his first fight in this sport he did not give up. The road ahead was tough. In the next fight not only did he defeat a more experienced fighter, but created a show for the audience.

In 2017 he signed with the largest MMA company, UFC, where he won the title of middleweight champion. Adesanya is currently preparing for a new challenge – that of winning the second light heavyweight belt on Saturday. Currently, in the UFC he holds a record of 20 wins and no losses.