By Christopher Reive in Melbourne
Rising Kiwi mixed martial artist Israel Adesanya might be fighting in the co-main event, but at the weigh-ins for UFC 234 it was his City Kickboxing teammate Shane Young who stole the show.
After stepping on the scales and officially making weight ahead of his featherweight bout against American Austin Arnett, Young delivered a kōrero to the crowd at Melbourne's Rod Laver Arena, before laying down the challenge to his opponent.
"I was addressing the blessing that we all have of life and letting it be known that I acknowledge that I am here living, breathing and creating," Young explained to the Herald.
"Then I acknowledged Ranginui the sky father and Papatūanuku the Earth mother and showing them my commitment to them for allowing me to be alive."
The 25-year-old, who will make his third appearance in the UFC on Sunday, has always embraced his culture on the world stage. For his most recent bout, at UFC Singapore last June, he flew the tino rangatiratanga flag, and delivered his post-fight speech in te reo after knocking out his opponent.
Young is one of three City Kickboxing fighters on the card at UFC 234, with Adesanya in the co-main event against Anderson Silva, and Kai Kara-France joining Young in the preliminary bouts against Brazilian Raulian Paiva who is making his UFC debut.
All three fighters go into the their respective bouts with plenty of intrigue surrounding them. Kara-France was last week elevated into the UFC rankings for his division at No.15 despite having just one bout with the promotion. UFC boss Dana White on Friday pegged Kara-France as one of the fighters to watch on Sunday and with the future of the flyweight division thought to be in doubt, the fighters will be out to make a statement.
Young returns to the octagon on Sunday after a self-imposed break from the sport to address his mental health. The young fighter spent time outside of the world of MMA and got back to his roots at home in Napier before returning to Auckland and back to training. He meets Arnett who has struggled since making his debut in the UFC in 2017 with just one win from four fights.
Adesanya's bout against Silva has largely overshadowed the card's main event - a middleweight title fight between Kiwi-born champion Robert Whittaker and American Kelvin Gastelum. Adesanya has been compared to Silva for his whole career, and this is a fight many have wanted to see.
What adds more intrigue to this fight is the undeniable hints that it could be the last of Silva's career. The 43-year-old has three fights left on his contract, but a loss to Adesanya could see him walk away from the sport.
"I would probably imagine it is (the end for him)," White told TMZ Sports when asked what happens if Silva is knocked out on Sunday, "but who knows with this guy."
After weighing in on Saturday, a teary-eyed Silva addressed the Melbourne crowd ahead of his first ever fight Down Under.
"I've worked my entire life for this sport. I've tried to do my best and I have to say thank you God for giving me one more time a great opportunity to give a great show to you guys."
Adesanya followed suit by echoing the message he spread at Friday's press conference.
"I'm a fan of this man. But just because I'm a fan doesn't mean he can't catch these hands, and elbows, and feet, and knees," he said. "We're going to throw everything in the cage. I'm going to send him off in a nice way. "