By Christopher Reive in Melbourne
Israel Adesanya knows how to play the game, and UFC boss Dana White knows it.
White was full of praise for the Kiwi phenom after his unanimous decision win over Anderson Silva in Melbourne on Sunday – a bout that saw both fighters earn a US$50,000 performance bonus.
"It was fun, man. That first round was like a kung-fu movie," White said of the bout. "It was a fun fight to watch, very fun, with two guys who are incredibly talented. I was saying yesterday any odds makers that makes Anderson Silva 7-to-1 is out of their mind. The guy is always taking care of himself, he's a great martial artist and that was a fun fight."
Adesanya's star has been on the rise since he made his UFC debut last February, with his headline bout against Silva on Sunday being his fifth trip to the octagon in 364 days. Along the way, he has become a household name with MMA fans as one of the most marketable talents in the game.
"The kid's got it," White said. "Not only is he talented in the octagon, he's talented outside of it too. His interviews are exciting, he's an interesting guy, he's fun to watch and I think he's got a really bright future here."
The 29-year-old middleweight led the rise of Kiwis in the UFC over the past year, with City Kickboxing teammates Kai Kara-France, the UFC's No.15 ranked flyweight, and Shane Young also picking up wins at UFC 234.
Combined with fellow Kiwis Dan Hooker and Luke Jumeau, New Zealand's UFC fighters posted a 12-1 record over the past 12 months, catching the eye of their boss.
When asked if the company would return to New Zealand either this year or in 2020, White said the success of the Kiwi athletes made the decision an easy one.
"You know the answer to that. The answer is yes," he said.
"Not only are there tons of guys fighting, there are tons of talented people (Down Under) – people who are going to climb up into the ranks and possibly become world champions someday. It's a great market."