Israel "The Last Stylebender" Adesanya
Acrylic and mixed media on panel,
24"h x 18"w, Item No. 18018,
Israel “the Last Stylebender” Adesanya
“Initially it was very tough for my parent to support me but when they saw the passion in me they later gave me all their supports.”
Israel Mobolaji Temitayo Odunayo Oluwafemi Owolabi Adesanya (born 22 July 1989) is a Nigerian-born New Zealand professional mixed martial artist, and former kickboxer and boxer. As a mixed martial artist, he is currently signed to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), where he is the UFC Middleweight Champion. In kickboxing, he is a former Glory Middleweight Championship title challenger. As of June 14, 2021, he is #3 in the UFC men's pound-for-pound rankings.
Israel “the Last Stylebender” Adesanya grew up in Nigeria with his four younger siblings and his parents. The family moved to New Zealand when he was 11 years old. As an adolescent, he was interested in Japanese Anime—a fascination he has to this day: he is planning to open an Anime production company upon retiring. He was also a dancer, and won numerous dance competitions. He was frequently bullied, and credits this—along with his epiphanic viewing of the Thai martial arts film “Ong Bak” at age 18, as the impetus for becoming a fighter. By age 20, he had left university—where he was enrolled for computer design, in pursuit of a career in kickboxing—amassing an amateur record of 32-0 before turning professional. Within a year, he was training mixed martial arts and wrestling with some of the best in the sport; his career has rocketed skyward ever since.
Over the years, portraits of mixed martial artists and boxers, such as Amanda Nunez, Rose Namajunas, and Johnny Tapia, have become part of my overall oeuvre-- as I have great admiration for the fighters’ strength, courage, and sheer athleticism. Having practiced martial arts myself (for personal well-being—not professionally!), I know firsthand the commitment the art entails at the level in which UFC Fighters must train. I wanted to pay homage to Adesanya not only for the above reasons, but also for his generosity and concern for his communities (and for his love of Film, Fashion, and Art!). For example, during the pandemic, he donated 11,000 PPE to the hospital in New Zealand where his mother is a nurse, and thousands more PPE to Lagos, Nigeria and Auckland, New Zealand—the cities dearest to his heart. He is a role model for Nigerians, New Zealanders, and young would-be fighters worldwide, and is widely regarded as one of the best strikers in mixed martial arts.