Israel Adesanya Was Willing to “Die” and “Kill” Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236

Israel Adesanya throws a spinning back elbow at Kelvin Gastelum

In an interaction with Teddy Atlas, Israel Adesanya (20-0) looked back at his fight with Kelvin Gastelum (16-6-0, 1NC) and recalled one of the most memorable moments of his career.

On April 13, 2019, Adesanya was pushed to the absolute limits by Gastelum at UFC 236. It is the only fight where fans got to see Adesanya seriously hurt, as Gastelum rocked him with a head kick in the fourth round. Fortunately, the Kiwi survived the round.

Kelvin Gastelum Lands a Head Kick on Israel Adesanya at UFC 236
Kelvin Gastelum Lands a Head Kick on Israel Adesanya

With a swollen lip and a heart of a lion, Adesanya entered the fifth and final round. However, before the referee could resume the action, he uttered a phrase that forever changed the way fans and critics looked at him.

“You’re not going to beat me, I’m prepared to die.”

Adesanya went on to win the fight and the UFC interim middleweight championship. Per UFC stats, he outstruck Gastelum by 22 significant strikes in that round.

Was Israel Adesanya Really Willing to Die?

In a recent episode of The Fight with Teddy Atlas, “The Last Stylebender” revealed what led to the moment and why he said what he said.

“In the fourth round, I got rocked with a head kick. I held my composure. He didn’t realize I was hurt, [Gastelum] tried to take me down and then failed. And in the corner, Eugene [Bareman] was like, ‘This is what we trained for, we’ve been here many times in training.’ And he gave me the speech, and I listened.”

Adesanya then recalled his teammate Brad Riddell asking him to “embrace the darkness.” Moreover, the 31-year-old claimed he saw Diablo (The Devil) in Gastelum. Not only that, but Adesanya also made a shocking confession.

“When I said that in that fifth round, Teddy, I was trying to kill him. I’m not mincing words. Not that I’m trying to kill him, I was trying to finish him. God forbid, I’m glad he was all right. But if something bad had happened to him in that fight, I would have been okay because I was ready to give my life up, and it’s scary for me to say. But I found a new self. I found the confidence that I could do that.”

After winning the interim title, Adesanya unified the belt against then-champion Robert Whittaker and defended it against Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa. He will attempt to become the fifth UFC double champion at UFC 259 when he takes on Jan Blachowicz.

An account used and handled by The Combat Magazine Staff.