By Christopher Reive in Melbourne
When Israel Adesanya took the stage at the UFC 234 open workouts in Melbourne, he was accompanied by an awkward silence.
The crowd let out a huge roar when his name was announced but, fashionably late to the stage, the Kiwi star missed his initial chance to revel in it, and just smiled and waved before asking the crowd for more.
Hundreds of UFC fans turned out in the heat of the Australian sun on Thursday evening to catch a glimpse of some of their favourite fighters in brief displays of striking and grappling.
After UFC newcomer and Melbourne local Callan Potter came out and charmed the crowd by dancing to Whitney Houston's 'I Wanna Dance With Somebody' with his young daughter, and rising Australian star Jimmy Crute played the home favourite role taking photos with fans and signing any item put in front of him, it was Adesanya's time to shine.
And after giving the Melbourne crowd a taste of his abilities, the 29-year-old middleweight ended his exhibition with a professional wrestling inspired bit – hitting his sparring partner with a Stone Cold stunner, before sitting him down with a Rock Bottom, landing the People's Elbow and getting the pin.
If anyone in the crowd had reason to dislike Adesanya, they would have had a hard time of justifying it at his open workout, when he went to the front row of the crowd and gave a signed boxing glove to a young boy, before throwing his leg guards into the sea of adoring fans.
Charismatic as ever, he praised the city of Melbourne and its people before diving into the reason he's here – a date in the octagon with UFC legend Anderson Silva on Sunday at UFC 234.
"They say styles make fights, and I'm the Last Stylebender, so I'm about to make this fight – tell them to come see me," he said to the lively crowd.
With main event fighters Kelvin Gastelum and middleweight champion Robert Whittaker following Adesanya on the stage, a fair portion of the crowd dispersed and headed to a signing session with Adesanya and fellow City Kickboxing fighters Kai Kara France and Shane Young – who are also on the UFC 234 card.
The popularity of the team was clear at the session, with the line stretching down the side of the building and wrapping around the corner – with hundreds flowing through the doors for their chance to meet and get a photo with the fighters – and some even stopping their coach, Eugene Bareman, on the street outside for a photo as well.
Kara France and Young will fight on the preliminary card on Sunday at Rod Laver Arena, with Adesanya in the co-main event.