These days Israel Adesanya headlines some of the UFC’s biggest cards and is guaranteed to get VIP treatment. But things haven’t always been like that for ‘The Stylebender’.

Before he became one of the best pound for pound mixed martial artists on the planet Adesanya was a kickboxer on the regional scene in China. Ahead of UFC 287 he shared some memories with Emilio Urrutia.

Urrutia is a ONE Championship veteran who appears to have retired from MMA in order to focus on his comedy career. Him and Adesanya reminisced about fighting in China and the reigning UFC middleweight champion had a funny story to tell,

One time I fought this big Chinese dude and I’m in the same hotel room. I’m with this guy in the hotel room chilling and I didn’t find out I was fighting him ‘til it was weigh in time.


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Crazy times

These days Adesanya earns at least $1 million USD every time he competes in the octagon. The 33 year old only competes two or three times a year and can afford to spend several months preparing for each opponent.

It wasn’t like that when he was fighting in China though. Adesanya once fought four times in a single month,

Crazy times. I think I had 24 fights in 10 or 11 months. There was one month I fought four times and I had three knockouts. It was great.

According to Adesanya the promoters in China weren’t expecting him to win. But he started running through the local competition until the only option was to offer him a big contract to be part of their fight team,

They brought me over there to be a journeyman for their people to beat up but they realize ‘oh we can’t fuck with this guy’ so they sign me on the team gave me the biggest contract for a foreign fighter.


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Extensive experience

Adesanya had something like 80 kickboxing fights, there isn’t a complete record. His striking style has been developed over the course of a career that has spanned decades and is devastatingly effective.

But UFC 287 was perhaps the best advertisement for the kickboxing skills which Adesanya forged in China. He finished long term rival Alex Pereira with a perfectly timed counter right in the second round.

Pereira beat Adesanya twice during his kickboxing career. But the 33 year old had the last laugh to recapture his middleweight title in front of an audience that included Donald Trump, Mike Tyson and Kid Rock.

Adesanya is on top of the MMA world after his performance in Miami. But the journey there has been a long one and has taken him to places like Dalian, Wenjiang, Shenzhen, Jiyuan, Changzhi, Chaoyang and Zhengzhou.