Israel Adesanya put on the most impressive performance in his UFC career on Sunday, but was only days away from withdrawing from the fight.

The 29-year-old middleweight made light work of American Derek Brunson, knocking out the UFC's No 6 ranked fighter with mere seconds left in the first round.

However, the undefeated Kiwi fighter revealed at the post-fight press conference a knee injury suffered in preparation for the bout almost saw him pull out of the card.

"I was limping," Adesanya said. "My knee was so inflamed."

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Adesanya said it was a discussion with his father that set him right for what would be a dominant outing at Madison Square Garden, suggesting he take some time off training before flying out to the States.

"Within three days my knee was getting better, then I had a cortisone shot a few days later - I checked with USADA, the golden snitch and they said yeah, it's cool.

"It was feeling so much better then I got back to the gym and started killing it, but I'm going to have to have surgery just to take away whatever niggly injury it was."

The Kiwi showed no signs of any issues inside the octagon as he put on a clinic to defeat the No 6 ranked Brunson with about 10 seconds to go in the opening round.

Adesanya caught Brunson with a knee to the chin when the American was attempting a takedown, and followed it up with some strong shots, knocking the American down three times before referee Herb Dean called a stop to the fight. The performance earned Adesanya his third $50,000 performance bonus in four UFC bouts.

After fighting four times in 2018 - the first UFC fighter to do so this year - Adesanya said he would be taking time off over the Christmas period to enjoy the season for the first time in years.

However, he's put his hand up to be the back-up for fight between middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum with the middleweight title on the line in February next year.

"Sometimes I get itchy feet, itchy knuckles, so we'll see what happens."