A touring Rotorua Boys' High School rugby team had a chance meeting with an old boy who, a few days later, would become champion.

The school's senior boys rugby squad left for Europe last week and on the stopover in Dubai, met former student Israel Adesanya who won the UFC interim middleweight title in Atlanta on Sunday. The rugby team is playing six games on their European tour which includes games in Italy, France and Spain. They will also be at Passchendaele for Anzac Day.

Adesanya beat American Kelvin Gastelum in the title fight in Atlanta on Sunday, and a superb fifth-round performance led to the judges scoring the fight 48-46 in Adesanya's favour.

Adesanya was a student at the Rotorua Boys' High School from 2002 to 2005 and principal Chris Grinter said Adesanya was known for something different then.

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"He made his mark at school, and as a young man of African descent, he stood out. But his specialty at school and what people remember him for was his breakdancing – which probably wasn't bad training for where he is today."

Grinter says the students seeing Adesanya in Dubai is an extraordinary chance meeting.

"That was pretty neat, he was pleased to see our guys and our boys were obviously pretty pleased to see him. It was mutual excitement.

"The UFC is hugely popular among the students and the staff and they have been watching Israel's progress in the sport. We take a lot of satisfaction and pleasure in watching him perform at this level."

Rotorua Boys' High School is no stranger to seeing its alumni achieve on the big stage and Grinter says it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the success comes from.

"Clearly in what we try and do in sport and cultural areas, is we have high expectations and expect them to work hard. Our old boys are very loyal and very proud and that reflects in the bond they have with the school years after they have left."