By Christopher Reive in Atlanta
In the lead-in to his interim middleweight title bout this weekend, Israel Adesanya has seen and heard the multitude of people saying Kelvin Gastelum would be his toughest opponent.
But the 29-year-old unbeaten Kiwi has a different view on the situation, believing his opponent at UFC 236 in Atlanta on Sunday won't be as tough as his recent conquest – Brazilian legend Anderson Silva.
"For me, that wasn't about fighting Silva, that was about fighting a younger me," Adesanya said. "To the younger me, he was the pinnacle of the sport so when I beat him that was like 's***, I'm the best in the world.'
"I already knew it, but I had to prove it to myself. So now, everything else is easy."
Adesanya has never been one to shy away from saying how talented he is, and has put together an unblemished mixed martial arts record to prove it. Since breaking into the UFC last February, Adesanya has not only been impressive inside the octagon, but he's been able to stay active.
Through his first year with the UFC, Adesanya fought five times for three decisions and two knockouts. For Gastelum, he's fought just four times since 2016, winning his last two. Formerly fighting at welterweight, Gastelum has had just four fights in the UFC as a middleweight. Wins over former champion Michael Bisping, who was on his way to retirement, and perennial contender Ronaldo Souza saw his star rise after a submission loss to another former champion in American Chris Weidman, early in his middleweight quest.
He was set to challenge for the belt in Melbourne in February against Robert Whittaker on the same card Adesanya beat Silva, however Whittaker was forced to withdraw on the morning of the fight due to medical reasons.
After impressing the crowds at the open workout in Atlanta on Thursday, Adesanya, so heavily scrutinised on social media for not having fought a top-tier opponent on his way to a title shot, shared those reminders of Gastelum's road to a shot at the belt.
"I feel like he has three good weapons standing up," Adesanya said. "That's all you need … but it's all about me and how I move, it's not really about him. He needs to do what he wants to do, but I'm going to make him do what I want."