UFC 276: Jared Cannonier 'grounded' before 'biggest challenge' of career against Israel Adesanya

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Israel Adesanya and Jared CannonierJared Cannonier will fight for a UFC title for the first time when he faces Israel Adesanya

You don't have to walk far down the Las Vegas strip before you see Jared Cannonier.

On the enormous advertising hoardings, on the sides of buses and inside the casinos are screens promoting his middleweight title fight against Israel Adesanya at UFC 276 on Saturday.

The anticipation in Las Vegas is striking, yet the flamboyance of the setting is in stark contrast to the character of the man tasked with ending Adesanya's dominance of the division.

Cannonier is calm, calculated and protective of his energy, despite being on the cusp of what he describes as the biggest challenge of his fighting career.

"I feel no emotion. There's bigger things happening inside of this vessel than what's happening outside," Cannonier, 38, told BBC Sport.

"I'm more inclined to sit back, be observant and make a rational, logical decision as to whether something is going to serve me or not.

"I've put in a lot of hard work to be here and my focus is very personal."

'People don't know what I'm capable of'

Jared CannonierCannonier has 10 knockout victories in 20 fights

Cannonier, who is from Dallas, Texas, has earned his title shot after winning five of his past six fights in the UFC.

He has been in the promotion for seven years, starting his career as a heavyweight, before having a stint at light-heavyweight and eventually cutting down to middleweight.

At 185lb he has found the weight at which his knockout power can flourish, illustrated by his impressive win over Derek Brunson in February.

Despite this, he is a big underdog with bookmakers to beat Adesanya, who is one of the UFC's biggest stars.

The Nigerian-born New Zealander, 32, has ruled the middleweight division for three years, looking relatively untroubled during the five defences of his title.

At Wednesday's news conference, Cannonier told journalists to change their line of questioningexternal-link because he was getting tired of responding to critics' predictions of an Adesanya victory.

Cannonier says the attention from the media drains his energy and the only people who truly understand him are his family.

"People don't know me, or what I'm capable of," he said.

"They couldn't understand what it feels like to be me and be in this position and be able to do the things that I do. They're speaking out of a place of ignorance.

"My family don't treat me like I'm Jared 'The Killa Gorilla' - I'm just Jared. And that's grounding for me.

"That's just what I need because everyone else is looking to me through the lens of a TV - they believe in this image the UFC has shown of me, and they don't really know me."

'Adesanya takes to being champion like a duck to water'

Israel AdesanyaAdesanya has never lost at middleweight in the UFC, with his sole defeat coming against Jan Blachowicz at light-heavyweight

There has been a lot of respect between the two fighters in the build-up to Saturday's showcase at the T-Mobile Arena.

Adesanya has said he recognised the potential of Cannonier a long time ago, and called for the fight to be made following his victory over Robert Whittaker in February.

Cannonier meanwhile praised Adesanya for the way he carries himself as a champion and says Saturday's fight will be the biggest challenge of his career.

"I would say he definitely is [the biggest challenge]. He's definitely the best striker that I've come up against," said Cannonier.

"He's a great fighter, he's been very entertaining, very educating for me to watch.

"Even as a champion and seeing the way he handles it. I don't have a first-hand view of what he's doing but I can only imagine all the different energies coming at him.

"Yes, there's a lot of respect there, to see a person handle all this the way he has. He's handled it like a duck to water. He knows exactly what to do and he's doing it very well."

Despite Cannonier's admiration for Adesanya, he only sees one outcome on Saturday.

"All I visualise is myself winning the title. How that fight's going, what it feels like, the energy I'm going to feel when I'm in there - I can feel it even right now when I'm talking about it," said Cannonier.

"Yes, I visualise it all the time, every day. The only outcome I see in my head is me with that belt."

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