On March 7, one of the most dynamic strikers in the UFC will attempt to defend his title for the first time. UFC Middleweight Champion Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya is taking on Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero in the main event of UFC 248.
This will be Adesanya’s first title defense since winning the belt at UFC 243 when he defeated the champion at the time, Robert Whittaker. Although the Soldier of God is coming off of two losses, Romero is as dangerous as it gets in the middleweight division with his powerful striking, athleticism and Olympic wrestling background.
The Last Stylebender will rely on his dynamic and unorthodox striking to get the job done, a fighting style that he attributes in large part to different cartoons and video games.
UFC 248 takes place March 7 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.
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The Middleweight Champ Draws Strength From Animated Characters Since They’re More Relatable to Him
The Last Stylebender has spoken about his experience watching the anime show Naruto. He said, “I took breaks in between, but it was like four years to watch 720 episodes with like six or seven movies. I can’t even make this a long story short, it’s a long story, but he is a kid who inspires me just based on the way he was brought up, and his willpower really inspired me. And his morals that he has for his friends and his family, and his code.”
Adesanya continued, “I draw strength from characters that aren’t even real, quote unquote, because they’re animated but they’re real to me. For me, it’s all about what’s in here (points to head), and you feel in here (points to heart). And I can relate to a lot of those guys more than I can to some of the great leaders of our time.”
Adesanya Uses Different Techniques in the Octagon That He’s Learned From Cartoons & Video Games
When talking about his fighting stye, The Last Stylebender said, “You’ve seen me try some sh*t that I’ve seen in cartoons or video games, and I’ll pull it out in the Octagon because, I don’t know, I can do it. I’ve blurred the lines between reality and fantasy; I am that line, The Last Stylebender.”
Here is a fan video showing some different Adesanya anime references.
In the video above, Adesanya spoke about his face-off with UFC legend and former middleweight king Anderson Silva. He compared their stare-down to two different Naruto characters. The Last Stylebender saw himself as Rock Lee and Silva as Gaara. Here is his Instagram post about that comparison:
Before his fight with Robert Whittaker, he talked to ESPN Australia about a Naruto character named Sakura who is known for having an extremely powerful punch. The Last Stylebender said, “Sakura, she has a really strong punch. I have yet to display it in the Octagon but eventually, maybe in this fight or the next, I will deaden someone just with one of those Sakura punches.”
The Last Stylebender did have a couple of “Sakura” punches in his fight against Whittaker. He knocked Whittaker down with a right uppercut at the end of the first round, and knocked him out with a left hook in the second round.
His Last Fight Had Many Different Anime References
Adesanya, who’s from New Zealand, put on a production for his walkout at UFC 243. He had three men come out and performed a rendition of the New Zealand haka. The fighter then came out of the tunnel and performed some dynamic moves before ending in a fighting stance. That fighting stance belongs to the character mentioned previously, Rock Lee.
Here is the video of his walkout:
After this walkout, when Bruce Buffer was presenting him as the challenger to Robert Whittaker’s belt, Adesanya confused many watchers as he pretended to write something in a book.
After he defeated Whittaker and became the middleweight champion, The Last Stylebender was asked about it during the post-fight press conference. He answered, “You ever hear about the anime called Death Note? So he’s the grim reaper right? I have a Shinigami with me, and I just had to write [Whittaker’s] name because I knew he wasn’t going to last; I just wrote his name in the ‘death note.'”
In the anime Death Note, if someone writes a name in a certain book, the person whose name is written will end up dying.
Here’s a clip of him writing Whittaker’s name down:
Adesanya’s Nickname Comes From One of His Favorite Shows
In an interview with ESPN MMA, Adesanya spoke about the origin of his nickname “The Last Stylebender.” He said, “Cartoons have had the biggest influence on my life, even as an adult to this day. Where my nickname comes from, “The Last Stylebender,” comes from Avatar: The Last Airbender, the TV series. That show I watched years ago but still to this day it has gems and lessons that I’ve learnt throughout my time watching that show.”
About the lessons he’s learned from the cartoon, Adesanya said, “They’re still with me for life, and I’m going to pass [them] down to my kids as well.”
The middleweight champ said that by having “The Last Stylebender” as a nickname, “That’s just one example of what cartoon characters have done for me.”
The Last Stylebender Has Tattoos of Different Cartoons
Adesanya was asked by TMZ if he was an anime fan, and he answered by showing off some of his tattoos. He has a Naruto and Avatar: The Last Airbender tattoo on his stomach, and a massive Deadpool tattoo on his side. Adesanya also has a tattoo of an Avatar: The Last Airbender character on his arm.
Here is a video of the middleweight champ showing off his tattoos:
The Last Stylebender Had Dreams of Becoming an Animator
Before Adesanya became the UFC middleweight champion and one of the best fighters on the planet, he had aspirations of becoming an animator.
In an interview with ESPN Australia, he said, “I wanted to be an animator when I was growing up. I will have my own production company after fighting, and I’ll hire people who can actually bring my vision to life.”
He had dreams of working for different film studios like Disney. He said, “I used to watch Disney cartoons. I wouldn’t even watch the story sometimes, I would just watch the fluidity of the animation. Like when [Tarzan’s] going through the trees and it was just cool watching all that kind of sh*t for me. That’s what I love about anime. Fight scenes in certain anime are just such fluid animation, like really really crisp. It jazzes me up.”