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Stylebender: The Proper Use of Humility

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Israel Adesanya, the last Stylebender, has burst on to the MMA scene. He’s risen to the top of the middleweight division in a one and a half year span. For context, even Conor McGregor took longer than that by almost a year. That makes a compelling case that Israel Adesanya is the biggest superstar in the UFC. 

He’s a superstar that’s as flamboyant outside the octagon as he is inside. Take a look at his entrance at UFC 243. He followed that entrance up with this at UFC 248. Stylebender almost continually engages in mental warfare with his opponents. He posts memes regularly on Instagram and TwitterYoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, Derek Brunson, Paulo Costa and of course Jon Jones have been at the receiving end of his jibes. 

A constant source of disagreement in the world of martial arts (well, the world at large, but martial arts in particular), is whether one should encourage the brash trash-talkers or the quietly humble. One of the aspects of the rivalry between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor revolves around this. Despite what we’ve seen about Stylebender in the public light, he describes himself as the “most humble guy you’ve ever met“. So the question is: what kind of humility is he talking about?

Different kinds of humility

Adesanya spoke about this in particular on Joe Rogan‘s podcast. “Humble is when Dan Hooker is hanging off my neck. Humble is when I have Steven Morby cracking me with an uppercut. Or when I have Carlos kicking me in the liver and having my whole body go eehhhhh”. That’s humility about his limitations as a fighter and a human being. 

When he fought Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236, Stylebender showed his opponent respect before, during and after the fight. Upon being given the belt, Adesanya broke down and invited his coach Eugene Bareman into the octagon, crediting him as the source of his success. A few months prior at UFC 234, Adesanya bowed down to his idol, the great Anderson Silva. That’s humility and respect.

At UFC 248, after a lacklustre main event, Stylebender acknowledged (humorously of course) that the fight may have been the worst in history. I call this humility for self-awareness.

This is the proper use of humility. This has resulted in eerily precise judgment about both his ability and the ability of his opponents. He delayed his entry to the UFC, predicted his rise to middleweight supremacy. He’s made the prediction that when the time comes he will rise up and challenge Jon Jones at light heavyweight. That’s a bold prediction.

Maybe Stylebender would be more popular if he was socially modest. That’s the conventional kind of humility. Imagine a world where fighters were always nice. Where if you asked a fighter if was going to win, he replied with a maybe. It’s an interesting thought. The topic itself is polarising. Some fans deem it ideal while others find it boring. 

However, we don’t live in that world. Stylebender isn’t that kind of humble. But don’t let his outwards appearance fool you.

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