Israel Adesanya, on the day we meet, is wearing over $200,000 in jewellery.
Most expensive piece?
That honour belongs to a striking, diamond necklace which, fashioned by famed Los Angeles jeweller Ben Baller, and hanging below a string of pearls, cost the UFC middleweight champ “about US$60,000”.
Which is some price tag.
Same deal with his $80,000 gold Rolex. Which still isn’t the most expensive wristwatch Adesanya owns. Nor on this day, even working right.
“Nah, still on New Zealand time,” the Aucklander cackles.
Then there’s another $30,000 chain, a bracelet worth as much again, a $13,000 diamond ring, matching earring and, finally, those $5000 pearls.
“Which are only for girls, apparently,” Adesanya laughs. “But who the f … says that? Society?
“I think they look good on my black skin. The way it all pops. Same with the gold watch. For me, it’s art.
“Although this is the first time I’ve ever disclosed these figures … I guess you’ve got me comfortable.”
Kicked back this particular Tuesday in a private lounge at Sydney’s The Star, Adesanya is only minutes away from walking out and into a press conference previewing his UFC 276 blockbuster in Las Vegas, July 3.
Apart from Adesanya facing American Jared Cannonier, the stacked card also sees Australia’s Alexander Volkanovski defending his own UFC featherweight strap in a hyped trilogy with Max Holloway.
At 33, ‘Volk’ is evolving into exactly the hometown hero you’d expect of a Wollongong concreter who rises up to become arguably the greatest MMA fighter on earth.
Yet Adesanya? His standing Down Under is slightly more complex.
Especially given his own title run began that day in 2019 where he famously silenced a Melbourne crowd of almost 60,000 — by knocking out Australia’s first UFC champ, Robert Whittaker.
Which is why some Aussies will love Adesanya talking through his walkaround worth. Why others will despise him for it.
And why we should tell you his greatest purchase this month has nothing to do with jewellery at all.
Unbeknown to almost everyone but his inner circle, Adesanya is flying a group of 10 young fighters – some of whom clean his gym at City Kickboxing – Stateside for his latest title defence.
Apart from sorting all airfares for the group, the champ is also housing them in a sprawling estate that, just off the Las Vegas strip, sits close to a second home hired for his core fight crew.
But talk about it? “Ah, I hate that s…,” the champ says, describing athletes who out their giving on Instagram as “disingenuous”.
“Because giving is almost selfish anyway. When you give, it’s you who feels good.”
But you are doing it, right?
“I’m taking over 10 people, yeah,” he finally reveals. “They’re young guys from our gym — guys who work hard, who are dedicated. And I feel if they can be there for this week, see it, that will then plant a seed.
“And it’s then up to them to water it, grow it. But they deserve this.”
Pushed on the background of his travelling crew, Adesanya continues: “Some of these guys live in the gym. Or they don’t pay tuition so they clean the gym. And I see that. I want to reward it.”
Which also explains that chunk of ticking wealth around his wrist.
With Adesanya recalling how years ago, as a child, gold watches embodied success, status and “just looking good”.
“So it’s all expression, all art,” he says. “And art is subjective. Some people want to buy a wine for $10,000. And while I don’t get it, I still love seeing that passion on their face when they say, ‘hey, you have to taste this’.
“So, yeah, I do the same for myself. It’s part of my growth. What I embody. This is who I am.”
– Nick Walshaw, news.com.au