Cape Town - UFC rising star Israel Adesanya plans to visit South Africa and has predicted the promotion will stage its first event in Africa in 2020.
Adesanya (15-0), who fights middleweight legend Anderson Silva (34-8) in a title-shot eliminator at UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia this weekend, was born in Lagos, Nigeria, but relocated to New Zealand when he was a teenager.
The 29-year-old, however, proudly celebrates his heritage and is keen to see MMA showcased on the continent at its highest level.
“There’s something calling me back home to Nigeria,” Adesanya said.
“My plan is to go to Nigeria, South Africa, Dubai and maybe Abu Dhabi after this weekend.
“Of course, we can bring UFC to Africa. South Africa may be one of the best places to start with given the influence of SuperSport, and you guys have EFC over there.
“I’m predicting UFC’s first show will take place in Africa in 2020.”
Adesanya is widely expected to take out 43-year-old Silva and earn a crack at the winner of middleweight champion Robert Whittaker (20-4) and Kelvin Gastelum’s (15-3) headline bout on the same night.
The striking phenom, though, insists he is not taking ‘The Spider’ lightly despite his age and declining performances.
“Silva brings experience as the longest-reigning champion with the best active win streak in UFC history.
“Plenty people are counting him out because of his age, but Randy Couture was champion aged 45. Older fighters are often dangerous fighters.”
‘The Last Stylebender’ can’t wait to step into the octagon, having reeled off four straight wins in just under a year.
“I’ve been prepping for so long, I’m looking forward to the action. I don’t feel pressure as a star in the making. I’m one of the fastest-rising guys in the whole (UFC) company. Not everyone is ready for this, but to me it’s another day in the office.
“If it was in Brazil it would be same stuff, different day. Walking to the cage, I don’t care where I am. I use the occasion to boost my will. But it feels good to be near to home.”
He added: “Definitely, this is the biggest fight of my life, one for the history books. Coming through, I didn’t expect him to still be around, but I have to fight him, to create my legacy.”
SuperSport will broadcast UFC 234 from Australia from 05:00 on Sunday on SS11.