LAS VEGAS — Two weeks after former boxing champion Deontay Wilder stirred controversy with a heavy walkout costume he said contributed to his defeat, Israel Adesanya is staying quiet on what kind of entrance he’ll make Saturday at UFC 248.
“We’ll see,” Adesanya said Wednesday after open workouts at MGM Grand. “I won’t do anything crazy, but I’ll make it visually pleasing.”
Adesanya will be defending his middleweight title against Yoel Romero in Saturday’s main event.
The last time Adesanya fought, on Oct. 5, 2019 in Australia, he had to convince UFC president Dana White to change his mind about allowing an elaborate walkout. White doesn’t like prefight specatcles, but he relented after seeing what Adesanya had planned and what it meant to him. Adesanya, who has lived in New Zeland most of his life, did a choreographed routine, complete with backup dancers.
“He told me he doesn’t like that stuff,” Adesanya said at Thursday’s media day. “That’s why they turned it down for Melbourne.
“But I was like, ‘Nah, it’s my show.’ Dana is Dana. And he’s one person. The world is filled with many people, billions of people. I feel like through just being yourself authentically, you can really tap into something that everyone can relate to. It’s not really just about walkouts or anything. It’s the way I speak, my demeanor, the way I dress.”
Adesanya didn’t wear a costume like Wilder, who was stopped by Tyson Fury in the seventh round and said the weight of the outfit tired his legs and impacted his performance.
Adesanya will be in a headlining role once again on Saturday, and there will be certain expectations for a creative walkout. The walkout song he has picked out isn’t even on his personal playlist, Adesanya said. He heard it on an app on his old phone and chose it through “sheer feel.”
“It’s not crazy,” Adesanya said. “But it’s gonna flow well.”
Adesanya, 30, said his attention to pageantry in combat sports was inspired by “Prince” Naseem Hamed, the charismatic former boxing champion from England.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) October 6, 2019
“I remember [being] mesmerized at how he came into the ring, his flip and then just the way he just played with fighters,” Adesanya said. “That was one of my earliest memories of showmanship, of boxing, of fighting. Watching Prince Naseem Hamed just f— with people. He just owned it. He owned it. That’s what I’m doing as well — I’m owning it.”
Adesanya spent many hours watching WWE when he was a kid, too. He said he takes some inspiration from “The Rock” Dwayne Johnson.
“On the mic, some of the charisma Dwayne has — The Rock has — rubbed off on me,” Adesanya said. “I used to just sit there and watch. … Yeah, I was a fan of that. I would just be laughing. He knew how to put on a show. Same with Stone Cold [Steve Austin] and everyone else. So definitely, it would have rubbed off on me as an influential young kid.”
Adesanya said he enjoyed Wilder’s walkout, although he’s skeptical of the tired-legs excuse, and he also gave props to Fury’s walkout on a throne.
“[Fury’s] walkout was phenomenal,” Adesanya said. “He had like four chicks carrying him on a stretcher thing with a throne. That’s beautiful. … Deontay Wilder’s was beautiful as well.”