For Blachowicz, a light heavyweight champion accustomed to being counted out by bettors and MMA fans, there was something extra sweet about that fact. Not only did he put a permanent mark on Adesanya’s record, he solidified his reign as the light heavyweight champ and sent a message to others who might encroach on his division.
Blachowicz felt amazing this past September when he captured the light heavyweight championship left vacant by Jon Jones. But defending it was another level of satisfaction.
“It tastes different,” he told reporters after his unanimous decision win over Adesanya in the main event of UFC 259 on Saturday. “I proved that I’m a true champion. I don’t know yet. Always, when you win the fight, it’s an amazing feeling. But right now, because I won against someone like Israel, one of the best in the world, [and] now he’s got 20-1, so he’s going to remember me until the end of his life; I’m the first one to defeat him in MMA, it tastes much better. It’s amazing.”
As happy as Blachowicz was at the press conference, UFC President Dana White said the champ came at him guns blazing after the win, accusing him of not believing in the champ.
“I put the belt on him, and he turned around and looked at me and said, ‘You don’t believe in me,’” White said. “I said, ‘What the f*ck did I do? How did I not believe in you?’ These guys are crazy. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the guy. Yes, yes [I believe in him].”
According to Blachowicz, his words were a question, not a statement, and he wasn’t holding a grudge against his promoter.
“I was asking, ‘You don’t believe in me?’ And he said, ‘No, I truly believe in you,’” he said. “Then after that I thanked him for everything he does for the fighters, that we can fight and have a job.”
A betting underdog once again, Blachowicz after the fight posted a declaration on social media for fans to put respect on his name, so it might be easy to mistake his passion for a chip on his shoulder. But as he took in his victory, he wasn’t in the mood to settle any scores. And if he was, he did it with a smile on his face.
“What can I say? I’m just happy,” he said. “I defended my belt. Now I proved that I’m a true champion. Now, I think I’m going to have respect from everybody. In the next fight, I don’t think I’m going to be an underdog. But I don’t care anyway. I could be.”
Many MMA observers expected Adesanya would be able to out-strike Blachowicz on the feet. The thought was a sizable disadvantage in weight wouldn’t be enough of an issue to negate the middleweight champ’s precision striking, and eventually, Adesanya would find the light heavyweight champ’s chin and end the fight. Instead, Blachowicz matched his lighter opponent on the feet and then used his grappling to control the fight on the ground.
When the final scores were announced, there was some surprise at the margin by which Blachowicz was declared the winner; White called the scores “insane.” But the light heavyweight champ said it made perfect sense, and even his colleagues agreed.
“[Light heavyweight contender] Glover Teixeira came to the cage and said, ‘You were better,’” Blachowicz said. “And after the fight, [UFC lightweight champion] Khabib [Nurmagomedov] said, ‘You won three rounds.’ He threw more kicks, but I threw more punches. And after, I controlled the fight on the ground. That’s why I won the fight.”
White said Teixeira will get the first shot at Blachowicz, though he didn’t lay out a timeline. Blachowicz said he needs some family time to recover, but he’ll be ready for the next challenger, underdog or not.
“If he wants to wait a little bit longer, he’s going to be my next opponent,” Blachowicz said.