The reason for Strickland’s confidence comes down to his opinion on Adesanya as a person, especially with the way the UFC middleweight champion carries himself outside the cage. Whether it’s comments made during interviews or pre-fight press conferences, or the choice to paint his fingernails, Strickland just doesn’t like Adesanya or what he represents — and he believes that most people agree with him.
“Nobody likes f****** Izzy. He’s a f****** cringe-lord,” Strickland said at UFC 293 media day. “Everything that guy does makes you f****** wince. Like, did he really do that? Is he really race-baiting Dricus [Du Plessis] right now? How does this play out for you? The thing about Izzy, when somebody sucks to that degree, it’s pretty f****** easy to make fun of them.
“This f****** cringe-lord. F****** A. Even talking about him makes me want to go f****** take a shower. I feel dirty.”
While their fight is still a few days away, Strickland will come face-to-face with Adesanya for the first time during fight week at a press conference scheduled on Thursday. The anticipation for that verbal showdown is palpable thanks to the unpredictability Strickland and Adesanya brought to their first volatile encounter at UFC 276’s pre-fight presser.
As fun as it might be for Strickland to interact with Adesanya on stage, he’s quick to note that the whole purpose of promoting leads to the eventual fight. Strickland promises that’s all that really matters to him.
“It’s going to be a f****** war,” Strickland said. “I do think people forget how good of a fighter I am because of how much I talk, but we’ll find out on Sunday. To the death. I run my mouth so much, I think people forget I can fight.”
When addressing his game plan, Strickland acknowledged a huge part of his training camp was spent focusing on wrestling and grappling as a potential weapon to use against Adesanya, who is primarily a striker.
Of course, Strickland did the same thing when preparing for a fight with ex-UFC champion Alex Pereira — and then he suffered a first-round knockout loss.
“Here’s the thing guys — I’ve been wrestling my ass off,” Strickland said. “But I also wrestled my ass off with Alex [Pereira]. The problem is you get in there and your d*** gets a little bit hard and next thing you know, you turn it into a boxing match. Maybe I’m going to try to be a complete MMA fighter, but no promises.”
Even if he does decide to wrestle, Strickland knows Adesanya won’t make it easy for him.
“You fight a guy like that, f****** little twinkle-toes, running around, dancing around, it’s hard to shoot [for a takedown],” Strickland said. “You’re going to have to go nose to nose, d*** to d***, and make it a war.”
Strickland will pull off a sizable upset if he’s able to beat Adesanya, who is currently a 6-to-1 favorite according to odds makers. A win would also crown Strickland as the new UFC middleweight champion, but it turns out that accomplishment really doesn’t sweeten the pot for him.
Instead, Strickland touts his bank account as the biggest winner in his fight with Adesanya, and drawing interest to the pay-per-view will only add more zeroes to his salary when it’s all said and done.
“[The fight] means so much to me, but it’s a f***** piece of metal,” Strickland said of the UFC title. “I’m in it for the paycheck. I love this s***.
“Having a piece of metal around my waist doesn’t define me, it doesn’t make me who I am, it doesn’t make me f****** happy. It would be nice, but at the end of the day, it’s just a fight. It’s just fun.”