Premonitions seem to run in the City Kickboxing family.

Newly crowned UFC interim middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has long said he foresaw his rise to the top, and head coach Eugene Bareman saw the same sort of rise in his gym's future.

In the space of a year, the small gym in the heart of Auckland has gone from relatively unknown to garnering worldwide attention – something Bareman knew would one day happen.

"I'm not like Israel, I can't see things happening in the future, but I knew from day dot that I had the coaches and friends around me to produce world class athletes," Bareman told the Herald in Atlanta after Adesanya's title fight.


"I always thought to myself, I didn't know when it was going to happen, that we would produce a group of fighters that would soar to the top of the world."

That group of fighters began to emerge in 2018. Following in the footsteps of teammate Dan Hooker, Kiwi fighters Adesanya, Kai Kara-France and Shane Young all made their mark in the last 12 months - combining for an 8-1 record in the UFC in 2018.

The gym finished the year with an 11-1 record to finish the year ranked among the top three stables across the globe, adding three wins to their tally through Australian featherweight Alexander Volkanovski who joins the gym during fight camps.

But it wasn't just in the UFC that the gym's fighters were shining. A number of its athletes competed in other MMA promotions while they also trained a number of boxers, including unbeaten heavyweight Junior Fa.

Bareman said the success of the gym and its fighters was a direct result of having some of the best trainers in the world, which included former world and national champions in their fields.

"I don't know if it's coincidental or it's just the way that things have gravitated towards me, but I've tapped into and have access to some of the best coaches in the world," Bareman said.

"If I stepped out and those guys stepped in, we would still be sharing the same success because they're masterminds at what they do.

"The proof is happening now, but I knew in the back of my mind that we could do it very early on."


Now, more than a decade after Bareman and fellow trainer Doug Viney opened the gym, they have their first UFC champion in Adesanya, who remains unbeaten in his professional MMA career after 17 fights.

Adesanya had to overcome a massive physical test against American Kelvin Gastelum in Atlanta on last weekend, winning a five-round epic by unanimous decision. It was the first time in his UFC career that Adesanya looked really tested, with Gastelum able to catch him with some heavy shots a number of times.

"Kelvin gave us a couple of things that we weren't ready for, he got the better of Israel in parts of the fight. That's all due to Kelvin; you have to give him credit for making that fight difficult for Israel," Bareman said.

"The real problem at the start was Kelvin didn't respect Israel's feints … Kelvin at times just came through the fire. He wasn't worried about getting hit. What changed was Israel got is respect by actually hitting him and dropping him."

Israel Adesanya and Eugene Bareman embrace after Adesanya's UFC interim middleweight title win. Photo / Getty Images
Israel Adesanya and Eugene Bareman embrace after Adesanya's UFC interim middleweight title win. Photo / Getty Images

Bareman and Adesanya shared a moment in the octagon after Adesanya had been awarded the belt where they dropped to their knees and embraced before celebrating with Adesanya's family. It was a moment of pure joy and one that didn't sink in for Bareman until he went back stage and had a chance to process what had happened.

"When it was happening, I was outside of myself, I was numb, I was like 'what's going on?' It was just unreal. Now when I think about what happened, that's when I start getting emotional and get chills.

"It's interesting how that works."