Israel Adesanya is ahead of the game.

The unbeaten Kiwi middleweight will walk out under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden tomorrow for a date against American Derek Brunson at UFC 230.

As if squaring off against the sixth-ranked fighter in his division wasn't enough to be excited about, the No 9-ranked Adesanya will make his walk to the cage under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden - one of the world's most notable venues.

But Adesanya is certain he won't be overwhelmed by the moment; quite the opposite, in fact.


When the opportunity came to make the walk and sit courtside when the New York Knicks hosted the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA this week, he took full advantage of it.

"That was historic," Adesanya told the Weekend Herald. "I mean, for me to be in the middle of the court, to make that same walk I'm going to make on Saturday night, to be there and really soak it all in and feel the vibe, for me, it puts me ahead of the game."

The 29-year-old has shown throughout his MMA career he's not one to let the moment get the better of him. He steps inside the octagon to do a job and maintains that mentality until the job is done.

His appearance at UFC 230 will be his fourth since signing with the company late last year, and he enters boasting a professional record of 14 wins in as many fights. Brunson shapes as his biggest test yet, with the American holding an 18-6-0 record.

Adesanya believes there are big things ahead in his future in the sport and said he saw Brunson as another stepping stone.

"I've got to focus on the task at hand. They say never underestimate anyone but they forget to tell you to never overestimate them, so I'm just doing me, man, I'm just enjoying myself and making sure I stay woke.

"I'm plotting - don't get me wrong - you can't see the forest for the trees sometimes, but right now, I've got this ugly ass tree in front of me I'm going to chop down on Saturday night, and then go on ahead through the forest chopping them down."

The Kiwi has shown in his first three bouts with the UFC that he's a tough fighter to bring down, let alone land a powerful strike against. Adesanya has successfully defended 71 per cent of attempted significant strikes and 81 per cent of takedown attempts. With a reach advantage of about 8cm on Brunson to go with his elusiveness and power, the Kiwi provides a tough match-up for the American.


However, Adesanya's training partner and UFC No 13 ranked lightweight Dan Hooker told the Radio Sport Breakfast Brunson will likely end up looking to take the fight to the mat.

"He's a very heavy puncher," Hooker said, "but he's also a very high level wrestler. He's a bit of a multi-threat - he swings wildly on his feet ... but he can also wrestle.

"I feel like he'll go in there with the intention of striking, but once Israel starts landing some shots, I'm pretty sure he'll switch his game plan early in the fight to his wrestling and try to drag Israel to the mat."