In a sport dominated by fighters who play their tough-guy persona up to garner attention, the Kiwi-star stands out as he's always been loud and proud about his love of anime, comic books, and video games.
No doubt, Israel Adesanya is one of the most unique characters to ever step foot inside the octagon. With that said, here are five times the UFC middleweight king referenced geek culture in the octagon.
#5 Israel Adesanya's Avatar: The Last Airbender monicker
Israel Adesanya's 'The Last Stylebender' nickname is an apt monicker for an elite-level MMA fighter. The sport, after all, is a by-product of combining several different martial arts disciplines such as kickboxing, wrestling, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, just to name a few.
But the origin of Israel Adesanya's alias has nothing to do with that. 'The Last Stylebender' is a play on Nickelodeon's popular animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The Asian-influenced show follows the story of characters who possess the ability to control the four classical elements (water, earth, fire, and air). It aired from February 21, 2005 to July 19, 2008.
"You see me try something I've seen in cartoons or video games and I'll pull it out in the octagon because, I don't know, I can do it," Adesanya told ESPN. "I blurred the lines between reality and fantasy; I am that line: The Last Stylebender."
#4 Israel Adesanya poses Rock Lee from Naruto
Israel Adesanya idolized Anderson Silva growing up. As luck would have it, the middleweight star was gifted the opportunity of a lifetime when he squared off with his hero at UFC 234.
Big fights usually go hand-in-hand with iconic moments and Israel Adesanya did not fail to deliver. Standing face-to-face with the man he often drew comparisons from, Adesanya mimicked the stance of one of his favorite anime characters, Rock Lee, from Naruto during the weigh-ins.
In an episode of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Israel Adesanya revealed the significance of his pose-
"I did the stance Rock Lee normally does in the weigh-ins and Anderson stood there like Gaara. He probably doesn't know what that is, he just stood there. And sh*t like that, it's a Taijutsu fight. Like when life imitates art without even trying."
Israel Adesanya is referring to the iconic fight scene between characters Rock Lee and Gaara in the 13th episode of the popular anime show's second season. According to the UFC star, the action scene was the reason he got hooked on Naruto.
Watch the video below:
#3 Israel Adesanya's Black Panther-themed shirt
Israel Adesanya was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. Throughout his UFC tenure, he's always been a proud representative of the country and its people.
Incorporating his national pride with his fondness for Marvel Comics, Adesanya launched a Black Panther-inspired t-shirt that he wore to a UFC event. The shirt featured his "Broken Native" tattoo along with the superhero's chest plate design.
Israel Adesanya also has an affinity for Deadpool, another popular Marvel character. He has a tattoo of the snarky anti-hero plastered on his side. In an interview with GQ, he revealed the inspiration behind his Deadpool ink-
"I've always wanted Deadpool. He's funny. He's effeminate. He's a badass. Also, he heals fast."
#2 Israel Adesanya writes on a Death Note
In the main event of UFC 243, Israel Adesanya pretended to write down the name of his opponent, Robert Whittaker, moments before they locked horns in the octagon. The gesture is a direct reference to the Japanese anime Death Note.
In the show, the main character discovered an unholy notebook that allows the owner to kill anyone by writing the person’s name on the page. By doing so, Israel Adesanya implied that he was going to take Robert Whittaker's life.
Israel Adesanya made good on his threat as he knocked 'The Reaper' out in round two to become the undisputed middleweight champion. After the fight, Adesanya gave more context to what a Death Note does.
"So he's the grim reaper, right? I have a Shinigami (death god) with me. I just had to write his name because I knew he's not going to last. I just wrote his name on the Death Note and those who know the rules of the Death Note know that in a certain time frame after your name's been written on the Death Note the Shinigami will get you."
#1 Israel Adesanya's Ghost of Tsushima-inspired outfit
Israel Adesanya walked out wearing a Conical Asian hat and a Japanese oni mask at UFC 263. Speaking to Megan Olivi, 'The Last Stylebender' revealed that it was the video game Ghost of Tsushima that inspired his unique entrance attire.
"I was playing Ghost of Tsushima for a bit. I haven't clocked it yet. Also... I saw a picture of Fau [Vake] with a bucket hat...So yeah, a little bit of that but there's the look of it [the costume]. It just looks cool. This is martial arts, man. I just like to f***ing look cool." said Israel Adesanya.
Ghost of Tsushina is an open-world, action-adventure game set in feudal Japan. Released in 2020, the game was developed by Sucker Punch Productions and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment.