Former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has announced a temporary break from professional fighting, following his unexpected loss to Sean Strickland. Adesanya lost his middleweight championship in a unanimous decision bout in September, which was considered a major upset in the MMA world.
The 34-year-old fighter, born in Lagos and representing New Zealand, revealed his plans to take a sabbatical from the UFC. While he acknowledges Strickland’s victory and makes no excuses for the loss, Adesanya intends to step away from the octagon for an extended period to focus on self-care, lifestyle changes, and preparing for his future in the sport.
Adesanya stated, “I’m not going to fight for a long time. I’m definitely not going to retire, because that’s not me. But if I did, I’d be fine. I don’t need to prove anything else.” He emphasized his need to heal and adapt his body to the demands of professional fighting.
Despite the possibility of a match against Khamzat Chimaev at UFC 294, Adesanya’s sabbatical led his team to decline the offer. Instead, fellow Nigerian fighter Kamaru Usman will face the undefeated Chimaev on October 21.
Adesanya acknowledged the toll that taking on four fights in the last 14 months has had on his body, which prompted his decision to take a break for recovery. He has undergone medical assessments and specialist tests to ensure he returns to fighting at his best.
In addition to his fighting career, Adesanya faces potential legal consequences. He pleaded guilty to drunk-driving charges in New Zealand, following an incident on August 19, when he was found with 87 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood in his system, exceeding the legal limit of 50 milligrams. Adesanya expressed his remorse and issued an apology for his actions. He will appear in court for sentencing on January 10.
While Adesanya’s sabbatical may leave fans eager for his return, his commitment to self-improvement and healing is a testament to his dedication to the sport and his long-term success.
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