As Israel Adesanya remembers it, the decision to double down on his meteoric rise from former kickboxing star to unbeaten UFC champion by moving up in weight to challenge light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz on Saturday at UFC 259 was made for him by his coach, Eugene Bareman, a mere five months ago.
Adesanya (20-0) was less than an hour removed from dismantling unbeaten challenger Paulo Costa to make the second defense of his unified 185-pound title at UFC 253 when he was given instructions regarding the future during a car ride leaving from the hotel in Abu Dhabi.
"I'll be honest and frank with you. Literally, on the way to the restaurant, my coach and everyone decided behind my back," Adesanya told ESPN's Ariel Helwani on Tuesday. "They all had a meeting and Eugene was like, 'This is the best move to make, we think, we think.'
"I've said before, I am the canvas. I have many artists who have had a lot of work put into me and I have to consider their feelings, as well. When Eugene pitched the idea to me, I was just like, 'You make sense, you make sense … it also makes dollars.'"
A 31-year-old native of Nigeria, who fights out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand, Adesanya is fresh off authoring one of the most dominant three-year stretches to kick off a UFC career that the promotion has ever seen. Since his UFC debut in February 2018, Adesanya is 9-0 with victories over a who's who in recent middleweight division history.
It's impressive enough that Adesanya, despite his wiry frame, has chosen to take on the risk by moving up to face Blachowicz (27-8), a 38-year-old Polish slugger who upset his way to winning the UFC's light heavyweight title last September by stopping Dominick Reyes after longtime king Jon Jones vacated the title to move up to heavyweight.
But what makes this decision for Adesanya even more intriguing is what might happen next and the rarefied possibilities of what there is for "The Last Stylebender" to accomplish should he have his way with Blachowicz like the oddsmakers expect him to.
Beating Blachowicz would make Adesanya just the fifth simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history and the only one to do so while undefeated. But given his history of jumping weight divisions in various other combat disciplines and how outspoken he has been at chasing a super fight against Jones, the sport's reigning G.O.A.T., Adesanya could find himself three more years from now having accomplished what no one else before him has even attempted: becoming a three-division champion.
Can't get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the world of combat sports from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a deep dive into Adesanya's resume and what makes him so special below.
"I've been thinking about moving up just to show off," Adesanya said during the UFC 259 Countdown show. "I've done it in kickboxing, I moved up to heavyweight. I've done it in boxing when I was a boxer and moved up and fought a world class heavyweight. So it just has to happen in MMA.
"What I'm expecting is myself to be my best. [Blachowicz] is not sharper than me. I expect to finish him."
The timing for such ambitious plans to have a chance at taking place could not be more perfect, which is probably why Adesanya was all smiles when he told Helwani, "it's like an ultimate alley-oop from the universe and I'm about to dunk on this bitch, man."
Adesanya has an opening to take over the light heavyweight division without having to go through Jones, at the moment, to do so. While Blachowicz remains plenty dangerous given his awkward striking style and world-class power, Adesanya's advantages in speed and precision are expected to be too much.
"It was the right time for Israel to move up a division for several reasons," Bareman said. "One of them being the challenge of Jan Blachowicz, a very good and bigger fighter."
But not only is Adesanya ready for the move to 205 pounds, there's still a chance he one day goes a step further to heavyweight. Now, it's a pipe dream until we see how his body holds up to the physical demands of finding success at light heavyweight, but given Jones' ambitions of facing the winner of Stipe Miocic and Francis Ngannou over the summer to claim the heavyweight crown and the never-ending war of words between Jones and Adesanya, it's not hard to see how this plays out.
Not only does Adesanya envision facing Jones inside a packed Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, the new home of the NFL's Raiders, he has gone public this week saying he'd be willing to do so as early as December. What makes that extra significant is that it would give Jones just enough time, in theory, to face the Miocic-Ngannou winner this summer.
Should Jones bring the heavyweight crown into a title fight between the sport's top two pound-for-pound fighters against Adesanya as the reigning middleweight and light heavyweight champion of the UFC, it would easily go down as the most important fight in promotional history.
Debate among yourselves how likely it would be for Adesanya to actually remain undefeated all the way up to winning the UFC's heavyweight title. By stating his teasing intentions to do so, however, he has set himself up not just for a shot at crossover global stardom, but a chance to be remembered, for now, as the greatest fighter to enter the Octagon.
Talk about ambition. This has been the story of Adesanya's short and explosive UFC career.
"This is what I do, I make it look easy," Adesanya told TheMacLife on Wednesday. "I plan on doing that again on Saturday. It's like I did in the Costa fight, I didn't let him touch me in the face at all. I'm not getting touched this fight, that's my plan."