Yoel Romero is ready for a war and he had fans ready to follow him into battle after pulling out this extraordinary moment.
Adesanya's subtle Cuba sledge
Welcome to our live coverage of UFC 248 in Las Vegas.
The headline fight sees Israel Adesanya defend his middleweight title against Yoel Romero, while in the co-main event, Weili Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk do battle for the women’s strawweight strap.
The preliminary fights kick off at 12pm AEDT while the main card gets underway at 2pm.
Watch UFC 248, Israel Adesanya vs Yoel Romero, on Sunday, March 8 from 2pm (AEDT) only on Main Event. Order it now here
Israel Adesanya vs Yoel Romero (middleweight)
Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk (strawweight)
Beneil Dariush vs Drakkar Klose (lightweight)
Li Jingliang vs Neil Magny (welterweight)
Alex Oliveira vs Max Griffin (welterweight)
Sean O'Malley vs Jose Quinonez (bantamweight)
Mark Madsen vs Austin Hubbard (lightweight)
Rodolfo Vieira vs Saparbek Safarov (middleweight)
Deron Winn vs Gerald Meerschaert (middleweight)
UFC phenom rises above 'leeches and snakes'
Israel Adesanya sat down in a crowded room at the UFC’s Las Vegas training centre and greeted the crowd in English and Mandarin. He apologised for his relative lack of proficiency in the second language, which he learned during his kickboxing career in China.
“If I’d had a Chinese girlfriend back then, maybe I’d be fluent,” Adesanya said with a grin. “But if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
The Nigeria-born, New Zealand-raised UFC middleweight champion has never lost in the Octagon. He is also a charismatic, multilingual citizen of the world who appears to be the next fighter in line for superstardom with the UFC, which would love to capitalise on his potential for global appeal.
Yet Adesanya (18-0, 14 KOs) knows his aspirations hang in the balance on every fight. He intends to stay on course when he takes on fearsome Brazilian veteran Yoel Romero (13-4) today in the main event of UFC 248 in his first defence of an undisputed title belt.
“A lot is on the line in this fight,” Adesanya said. “I don’t know what the odds are, but I feel like the underdog. I feel like a lot of people want to see me fall in this fight. This is the nature of what we’ve created. We like to build people up, and we like to tear them down because we see inadequacy in ourselves from the way they’re shining.”
Adesanya actually is a solid favourite in the main event of the UFC’s latest pay- per-view show at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The penultimate bout also has global appeal, with new Chinese strawweight champion Zhang Weili defending her belt against former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk of Poland.
Although Adesanya is telling himself that he’s the underdog, almost everyone else is expecting an impressive performance from the champion who has taken over the UFC division long dominated by Anderson Silva.
Adesanya won his title with a knockout of Robert Whittaker last October, establishing himself as the world’s top 185-pounder – and picking up all the distractions and challenges that come along with the distinction.
Adesanya speaks about the downside of success just as openly as he discusses his plans to thrash Romero.
“The leeches are everywhere,” Adesanya said. “The snakes, the vultures. They usually circle around dead, deceased creatures, but I’m thriving. I’m living. I’ve tightened my circle. There’s definitely been a lot of people I’ve cut off as recently as this week.
“It’s unfortunate, because not all your homies can grow with you.”
Romero turns 43 next month, and the famously musclebound fighter has lost three of his last four bouts by decision. This match-up is his first chance to fight for an undisputed UFC title belt.
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