“He Got His Ass Kicked”: Israel Adesanya’s Shaky First Fight in Amateur MMA

This week, Isreal Adesanya’s coach Eugene Bareman appeared on the Matburn podcast hosted by Josh Hinger.  We learned a lot about Bareman’s humble origins, and how he operated his gym (City Kickboxing) in New Zealand at a loss for years, scraping by on his passion for fighting.  We also got to hear a great story about current UFC Champion Israel Adesanya’s first amateur MMA fight.

In Adesanya’s first amateur fight, he had no grappling experience.  His only exposure to Jiu-Jitsu was watching YouTube videos.  This fight would prove fateful, as he would meet his future coach through a stroke of fortune.

View this post on Instagram

Big thanks to @citykickboxing owner and head coach, Eugene Bareman, for joining the podcast. After developing 6 contacted UFC fighter, including 2 current UFC world champions, Eugene was named the 2019 MMA Coach of the Year. He’s a super cool guy with a big heart and an immeasurable passion for combat sports. We had a great conversation for about 2 hours. Check it out, episode 29 @thematburnpodcast. • #atosjiujitsu #citykickboxing #tatamifightwear #bjj #jiujitsu #grappling #wrestling #submission #hingerbjj #adcc #ufc #blackbelt #nogi #worldchampion #auckland #newzealand #mma #bjjlife #tatami #thegrapplersguide #hingertine #f2w #subonly #moskova #monkeytape #gnarlynutrition #cbdistillery #gymjones #atos

A post shared by Josh Hinger (@hingerbjj) on

Bareman told the story of how Adesanya brazenly signed up for his first fight: “He jumped in an MMA fight without any training, just watching videos for like the night before.” At this point, Adesanya had a small amount of kickboxing experience, but no grappling experience.

He had no idea what he was doing…

Eugene Bareman, Adensanya’s MMA coach

“He did kickboxing. No wrestling, grappling training at all except for what he watched on video.  And how I met him for the first time is I cornered that fight. I asked him ‘have you done Jiu-Jitsu?’ ‘No.’ “

It turns out the future UFC title fighter was brushing up on BJJ through video. Bareman explains: “He [Adensanya] said ‘I’ve been watching YouTube’ […] he was watching Eddie Bravo stuff.”

“He had no idea what he was doing after watching a video,” said Bareman.

Adesanya’s lack of grappling experience cost him in the fight.

“He got his ass kicked – taken down in all three rounds.  You know how it is, it doesn’t matter how good you are on the feet, if you’re on your back it doesn’t make any difference.”

Did the video study help Adesanya? Not exactly. Bareman recalled: “he just watched the video, Rubber Guard. I think at some point I did see him pull the ankle and try.”

To his credit, Adesanya went the distance. “He survived the fight, took all the punishment,” Bareman recounted.

The seeds of that fateful meeting would prove to bear fruit later on. Despite Adesanya’s initial failure, he vowed to return and start training in earnest.

Bareman describes: “Then he just showed up at my gym a month later.  Walked in and said ‘I want to take this fighting thing seriously. I want to train with you.’ And that’s when we started our journey.”

Obviously “The Last Stylebender” has come a long way since then, with a sterling 18-0 professional MMA record (6-0 in the UFC) and a middleweight UFC championship belt. He also boasts an incredible 75-5 (!!!) kickboxing record.  As Bareman detailed in the podcast, Adesanya has succeeded through focus on his kickboxing and learning defensive grappling.

Bareman has seen accolades himself, earning several awards last year including “Coach of the Year” by a few publications.

Hinger admitted to helping Adesanya with some ‘Hingertine’ concepts – perhaps we may see a submission finish in the future.

Adesanya will face Yoel Romero on March 7 in Las Vegas as the main event of UFC 248. Alex Lindsey recently wrote about elite BJJ specialist Rodolfo Vieira, who also competing in that event.

Also – speaking of Eddie Bravo – we interviewed him last September.

Matt Peters

Matt is a day-time engineer who enjoys writing about Jiu Jitsu and MMA. He has written for YouJiuJitsu and Grappling Insider. Matt is a BJJ blue belt who has mastered the art of skipping warmups. He has been training for 5 years in the Minneapolis area. He has never officially tapped to a wristlock.

    Matt Peters has 26 posts and counting. See all posts by Matt Peters