Kiwi kickboxer, Israel Adesanya, is on the brink of going global.
The 27-year-old phenom is challenging Dutchman Jason Wilnis for the GLORY world middleweight title in Los Angeles this Saturday (NZ time).
If he wins, the victory will be as significant for New Zealand combat sports as Mark Hunt’s K1 victory in 2001 or Joseph Parker’s WBO title last month.
Globally he will enter into mainstream consciousness and potential superstardom through the exposure the GLORY broadcast platforms offer.
GLORY has emerged as the world’s premier kickboxing promotion since the demise of K-1’s stranglehold on the sport. They have gone a step further than the Japanese giant however, gaining a foothold in the lucrative US market, securing broadcast deals with ESPN and UFC fight pass as well as the various regional providers around the globe.
Adesanya certainly has the credentials. In just six years, he’s amassed a 66 win – 3 loss record, plus 9 wins with 9 KOs in MMA.
He’s dominated the Australasian scene, winning three trans-Tasman ‘King in the Ring’ titles in two weight classes and two Super 8 boxing crowns. Included in that tally is a victory over Shane Cameron’s conqueror and WBO world title challenger Brian Minto.
He carried that dominance to China, scything through a roster from around the world to become one of the most popular athletes on the arduous Chinese circuit. In November 2015 he returned home for a month fighting five times in four days, claiming both the King in the Ring kickboxing and Super 8 boxing tournament titles.
It was a remarkable feat, one very few are capable of, but he was at it again in October 2016 fighting four times in three weeks against world class opponents across China and the US to take the Glory middleweight number one contender tournament crown.
Combat sports fans are taking notice of the Nigerian-born, Rotorua-educated athlete. He’s already been featured in UFC commentator, Joe Rogan’s podcast, is a star in China, so much so that he’s been adopted as a local fighter.
He’s also been invited to train with the likes of UFC light heavyweight contender Anthony Johnson to help him prepare for Jon Jones, and former champion Rashid Evans. He also currently has matchmakers from the UFC rapping on his door looking to see when he’ll make the permanent transition to MMA.
Adesanya has a heady mix of attributes, which make him a potential dream attraction for big promoters. The former model looks great on screen, is a talented artist and graphic designer, is articulate and arrogant enough to capture the public’s imagination. In short, he’s the total package and the world could be his oyster – if he wins.
And that is by no means guaranteed. The current champion is the complete antithesis of the slickly skilled Adesanya. He has lightning fast, thudding hands, heavy kicks and tears into his opponents, with two-fisted volley’s.
He’s immensely tough, and coming from the elite Dutch kickboxing scene, has no fear of a dogfight. This is a fight where the rarely troubled Adesanya will have to go into the trenches at different points to turn back the Dutchman.
If he manages to emerge with the win, it will be a life changing accomplishment by a once in a generation athlete who could well go on to eclipse what our greatest fighters have achieved.