Israel Adesanya did something not many UFC fighters have done at UFC 243 — and I’m not talking about beating Robert Whittaker, as impressive as that was. Instead, I’m referring to his walk to the cage which, in an absurdly rare twist, actually featured a degree of flavor and originality.
For whatever reason, the fun-killers in UFC boardroom have historically shown a complete reluctance to let fighters make their walkouts even remotely interesting. Sure, there was the time Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes walked out to live performances from Sinead O’Connor and Aaron Lewis respectively. Former UFC fighters James Te Huna and Tom Lawlor have also had a few fun walkouts. But as a general rule, a UFC fighter’s walkout is little more than a trip from Point A to Point B set to some music that, in some cases, wasn’t even that fighter’s choice.
It’s a shame, considering how fun walkouts can be in other promotions in other parts of the world.
Genki Sudo, a legend of Japanese MMA, had some of the most memorable and engaging walk-outs in combat sports history. When Stamp Fairtex walks out for a ONE Championship fight, it’s always fun to watch. Unfortunately, we just don’t see this kind of thing — which presents a great opportunity for fighters to show fans their personality — in the UFC.
Thankfully, that changed when Adesanya walked out to the cage at UFC 243.
There was dancing, there was a tribute to his favorite anime, there was some honest-to-God zest. And from the sounds of it, it never would have happened had Adesanya not put his foot down and demanded a bit of creative freedom.
“I tried to do it at the [Anderson] Silva fight in February,” Adesanya said at the UFC 243 post-fight press conference, explaining how his entertaining walkout came to be (via Deadspin). “And the UFC was like ‘No, we can’t have that.’ I was like oh, fuck you then. And then this fight, this is my show, I’m headlining this bitch. So I was like no, I’m going to do it my way or no way. Like, who else on this kind of stage, is going to do that before they go and whoop some ass.”
This needs to happen more often.
I’m not suggesting every fighter should be encouraged to spice up their walkout — some would probably be mortified by the possibility. Not all of us can dance. But in general, the UFC should be far more open to this kind of thing, as it allows fighters to express themselves in a way that a 30-second post-fight interview with Joe Rogan or even a fight itself doesn’t. That, in turn, can make them a lot more relatable to UFC fans, and ultimately more valuable to the company.
Israel Adesanya is the proof.
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 10/7/2019.