- Sam was brought up on long drives and the dusty fields of north-west New South Wales, where he developed his love of rugby from an early age. He joined ESPNscrum after a five-year stint heading up Fox Sports Australia’s digital rugby coverage.
AUCKLAND, New Zealand — Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has hit out at Yoel Romero’s failure to travel to New Zealand to promote UFC 248 and promised to make the Cuban cry when the duo face off inside the Octagon in Las Vegas on March 7.
Appearing on stage Saturday at Auckland’s Spark Arena before Sunday’s UFC Fight Night here [4 p.m. ET Saturday on ESPN+], Adesanya [18-0] traded verbal jabs with Romero [13-4,] who was appearing via video link.
The New Zealander, who claimed the undisputed middleweight title with victory over Robert Whittaker at UFC 243 in Melbourne, Australia, last year, took aim at Romero’s record of missing weight, his “veteran” tricks and the fact that the Cuban had failed to make the long trip to New Zealand after Adesanya himself had traveled to the United States for “one day” to promote UFC 248 earlier this year.
“He’s a veteran, he’s an explosive guy, he likes to lull [his opponent] and then he explodes on them,” Adesanya said of Romero. “And when I say a veteran, he has certain moves that he likes to do; you’ve got stool-gate, grabbing the fence, things like that. Fact. Fact. Check the résumé.
“But for me, I just have to keep the same energy. Every fight I’ve had in the UFC was the biggest fight I’ve ever had, and this is no different; this is the biggest fight of my career thus far. I’m ready, two more weeks, I can see the finish line.”
Romero quipped he hadn’t been able to make the trip “last minute” but that had he done so, he would have gone straight to Adesanya’s house.
Romero, 42, twice fought for the title against Whittaker, losing on both occasions, and Adesanya, 30, said Romero’s reputation as one of the scariest men in the entirety of the UFC was unjustified.
“He’s the guy that no one wants to fight; he’s the oogey-boogey man. Everyone keeps saying, even Darren Till [has said], ‘I’ll fight everyone but Yoel.’ Why? I’ve seen him get rocked. I’ve seen him stopped. I’ve see him get bloodied. I’ve seen him cry. I’ll make him cry.
“He’s human like everyone else, and everyone likes to make this myth about he’s steel — you hit him and he doesn’t fall. I’ll hit him enough times and make him fall.”
Adesanya also said he would be ready to fight either Till or Jared Cannonier should Romero fail to make weight and a late replacement was required.
Before handling Romero in Las Vegas, Adesanya is looking forward to being a “fan” on Sunday when his City Kickboxing teammates Kai Kara-France, Brad Riddell and Dan Hooker — who takes on Paul Felder in the headline act of UFC Fight Night Auckland — all step inside the Octagon.
“We [City Kickboxing] did it twice, we stormed Australia, the three of us, the three-peat, we did the three-peat twice,” Adesanya said. “Tomorrow, everyone else is coming to our shores and we’re going to repeat the three-peat; we’re going to dominate.”
And in more good news for fight fans in New Zealand, Adesanya told ESPN that he had already discussed a future title defence at home with UFC president Dana White.
“It’s going to happen definitely,” Adesanya said. “Eventually, I’ll defend the belt on these shores.”
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