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Israel Adesanya, Sean Strickland keep up verbal attacks

Israel Adesanya and Sean Strickland continued their verbal jousting Thursday, with American fighter Strickland racially taunting middleweight champion Adesanya during the UFC 293 news conference.

Strickland continued to mock Adesanya’s connections to China, where Adesanya started his professional career in kickboxing and a place he has expressed a connection to. Strickland also accused his opponent of “race-baiting” South African contender Dricus Du Plessis during a stare-down at UFC 290. Adesanya replied by calling Strickland a “neo-Nazi.”

Adesanya will be putting his middleweight championship belt on the line versus Strickland at Qudos Bank Arena on Saturday. Their feud has been brewing since a heated altercation at the UFC 276 news conference in Las Vegas last year, when the two exchanged words, insults and threats for several minutes to ignite the rivalry.

“When I walk in that f—ing cage … I want to go and win that belt for you guys,” Strickland said Thursday. “And I want to bring some pride back to the middleweight division. I’ve got what it takes. I’m ready. I’m up for it.”

“This is his moment,” Adesanya said of Strickland at the news conference. “Sunday afternoon it’s my moment. Sunday, I’m going to knock this motherf—er out.”

There has been no shortage of barbs thrown since Strickland landed in Australia last week.

“He’s a f—ing cringe lord,” Strickland said at media day Wednesday. “Everything that guy does just makes you f—ing wince. When someone sucks to that degree, it’s pretty easy to make fun of them.”

Earlier in the week, Adesanya told ESPN that Strickland’s beef with him was “manufactured” but added that the fact that Strickland “questioned [Adesanya’s] morality” makes him want to take what the 32-year-old says personally.

“He’s talking all this s—, but he should be grateful. I got him his first passport. I got him his first flight out of his country. I got him this big-money fight,” Adesanya said. “He tries to act like a tough guy, but there’s no danger with him. He’s that idiot at the back of the class who talks over you and talks loud just to get his point across.”

Adesanya recaptured the middleweight world title in April with a victory over Alex Pereira in Miami. The last time Adesanya fought in Australia was at UFC 243 in 2019, where he outclassed Robert Whittaker in a second-round knockout.

Thursday’s news conference also included Adesanya getting into an altercation with Manel Kape, who is fighting on the undercard. Kape mocked Kai Kara-France, a teammate of Adesanya’s who dropped out of a bout with Kape after suffering a concussion. Adesanya stood up to defend Kara-France, leading to a shouting match and security intervening before the situation settled down.

Steve Carr

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