Why Is Israel Adesanya Called ‘The Last Stylebender’?

Many UFC fighters have nicknames they like to be called by. For example, Conor McGregor’s nickname is “Notorious,” and Israel Adesanya’s nickname is “The Last Stylebender.” As the latter fighter prepares for his UFC 259 match against Jan Błachowicz, let’s find out why Adesanya likes to be called the Last Stylebender.

Israel Adesanya’s UFC career so far

Unlike other fighters who join the UFC with an undefeated record, Adesanya has simply lived up to the hype. The former pro kickboxer won some of the most prestigious belts in kickboxing, but MMA was where the money was at. He made his UFC debut in February 2018, and he had an undefeated record of 11-0 at the time. 

Not only did he dominate his first opponent. But Adesanya wanted to fight again as soon as possible. The UFC obliged. While most fighters will fight two or three times a year, by February 2019, Adesanya had beaten five opponents in a row. It was clear that he was something special, and not long after, the UFC gave him a title shot. 

Once again, Adesanya did not disappoint. He made quick work of the champ, Robert Whittaker, and Adesanya’s actions afterwards were praised, too. He demanded more fights against top contenders, and he got them. And just like everyone else, Adesanya defeated all who challenged him. That’s why in March 2021, at UFC 259, he’s moving up to the 205-pound light heavyweight division to fight the champ, Jan Blachowicz.

Why is Israel Adesanya called ‘The Last Stylebender’?

Israel Adesanya celebrates after defeating Paulo Costa of Brazil in their middleweight championship bout
UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

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As The Sportsman reports, that’s actually a pretty easy explanation. While some fans may think that he’s called “The Last Stylebender” as a reference to the fact that he’s mixing and matching martial arts styles, it’s slightly more complicated than that. 

Adesanya’s nickname is actually a reference to Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was a popular animated show that aired on Nickelodeon. Like the title of the show implied, there’s a character named Aang who is the last airbender. There are other types of benders, such as waterbenders and firebenders, and they all manipulate their respective element.

That’s where Adesanya comes in. He obviously can’t bend fire like his favorite characters can, but he can bend fighting styles, whether it’s martial arts styles from the gym or martial arts styles from his favorite cartoons and anime. As The Sportsman wrote, Adesanya said, “I blurred the lines between reality and fantasy; I am that line: The Last Stylebender.”

A lifelong fan of anime

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This tongue in cheek reference to The Last Airbender isn’t the only example of Adesanya bending reality with his fantasies. As The Sportsman said, he’s been a fan of animation since he was a kid, and he’s not afraid to show it. He will often make passing references to his favorite animes, even though he knows most of the people watching will probably not understand them. 

In fact, not only does he want to work in animation when he retires from fighting, but it’s also possible that his love for anime helps him out in the octagon. As The Sportsman wrote, Adesanya has indeed tried a few anime or video game inspired moves in the octagon, and while they probably aren’t that effective, he likes to do them because he can. 

That said, his creativity may be a helpful trait in a fight regardless. Like he showed in his fight against Paulo Costa, Adesanya loves to throw a lot of feints at his opponents. His foes don’t know what to expect from him, and as such, he can do pretty much whatever he wants to them. That’s exactly what happened with Costa, and that’s why fans are expecting him to beat Blachowicz at UFC 259.