Watching him destroy Rob Wilkinson at his UFC debut in on Sunday, February 11, it's hard to imagine anyone picking on Israel Adesanya.

Yet the Nigerian-born MMA fighter was a victim of bullying when growing up.

He began to talk to himself as if trying to uplift someone else, and it became a self-appreciating ritual for him, one he still uses.

"You can't be self-deprecating when everyone else is trying to s*** on you," the 28-year-old said. "You have to be able to talk to yourself in the right way.


"I think I was crying in the mirror one day after being picked on. I was upset and I just kind of talked to myself and then eventually I just started doing it ... I've been doing it for years now."

Although it made things hard for him during his high school years, Adesanya learned that in order to succeed, you need to speak your goals into existence.

He demonstrated that ahead of his UFC debut, repeatedly saying he would get the stoppage. And he did. With 1m 23s remaining in the second round, Adesanya, who goes by the nickname "the Style Bender", put the middleweight division on notice with a TKO win over his Australian counterpart.

"I don't like to eat my words," he explained. "So I tell everyone that I'm going to win it. So whatever I have to do, whatever kind of subconscious thing that I have to do to drive me to win it, I have to do, so I make sure I get it done.

"I don't like eating my own words and I like rubbing it in people's faces."

The Lagos-born Kiwi said four people turned down the opportunity to face him in his UFC debut before Wilkinson agreed to the fight. He showed why.

You can't be self-deprecating when everyone else is trying to s*** on you. You have to be able to talk to yourself in the right way.

Wilkinson went into the bout with an 11-1 record, but with six of his wins by submission, it was clear his best chance in the fight would be to take it to the ground.

And he tried. Adesanya withstood 16 takedown attempts, spectacularly rolling through one early in the second round, before doing what he's done throughout his short professional MMA career.


"It ain't bragging if you can back it up, and I've been backing it up for years now, so I can say what I want and do what I want," he said.

The win took Adesanya's career record to 12-0, with all wins by knockout.

It is that pummell-ing striking ability and his height that has seen him draw comparisons to former UFC champions Jon Jones and Anderson Silva.

However, the Style Bender isn't trying to replicate them.

"I'm not Jon Jones, I'm not Conor McGregor, I'm not Anderson Silva. I can only be the first me."

Although he faced hard times growing up, he wasn't going to let the past hold him back now.


"I don't dwell on it. It was just a bit of fuel to the fire, but that's in the past. I don't really dwell on it like 'oh I'm going to get them back' but I keep some of them on my Facebook so they can see I'm shining now."

His win at UFC 221 was about making a statement: "I am the new dog in the yard. I just pissed all over the place."