SYDNEY - Israel Adesanya may adorn himself in the New Zealand flag in victory, but Nigeria retains a special place in his heart as he continues the push to take a fight "home" to Africa.
One of the rising stars of the UFC, Adesanya puts his unbeaten record through its toughest test yet when he lines up against Brazilian legend Anderson Silva at UFC 234 in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday [AEDT].
But he is confident the bout will be just another step on his surge up the middleweight rankings, an achievement that will only strengthen his relationship with UFC president Dana White and add weight to his desire to stage a UFC event in Africa.
"It's already in the works, we've been talking about it for a while," Adesanya revealed to ESPN when asked about that desire. "I've talked to Dana as well when I had my meeting with him."
Asked whether White had given him a timeline regarding a maiden Africa event, Adesanya said: "I can't disclose that. We just talk about everything. Even this fight [against Silva] right now, it's happening the way I want it to happen. I can be very persuasive. I am a very persuasive man."
Adesanya, meanwhile, has an interesting take when asked where he fits on scale of the African athletes.
"I'm the runt of my people," he said, his descriiption belying both his climb up to No. 6 in the middleweight rankings and his obvious array of combat skills.
"You go home, you just take away the soccer ball and put some gloves in their hands; we've got some good boxers back home as well.
"We just have to farm, find out where the gyms are back home.
"But I'm the runt of my people, so if I can be doing great things in what I'm doing, for anyone who's coming up next it's going to be crazy.
"Eventually we're going to have a lot of guys [coming through the UFC]. Kamaru Usman is fighting for the title next; he's a Nigerian-born fighter [and] he's going to fight for the [welterweight] title next against Tyron Woodley, so he might be the first Nigerian UFC champion. But I don't mind. I'll be the second Nigerian UFC champion. That would be cool, to take it back to Africa."
Having moved to New Zealand from Nigeria as a child, Adesanya experienced more than a few difficulties adjusting to life on the other side of the world. But having discovered his calling as an MMA artist, he now chooses to embrace the best of both nations on the world stage.
"Yeah, it's not even about the [New Zealand] flag; it's about the culture for me, the culture of just being a Kiwi," he said of his adopted nation. "And if you look at me, I'm all black; so if whoever else says otherwise, they're dreaming.
"I'm like the only Kiwi that can fly, I'm the one with the biggest wing. I've got Super Eagle wings, and that's the name of the soccer team back home [in Nigeria], the Super Eagles, so I kind of just embrace both sides with that kind of picture."
For all the bravado, Adesanya knows the scale of the test that awaits him at Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
Silva may have been out of the sport for almost two years, but he still holds the record for the longest all-time UFC title run at 2,457 days.
Anderson Silva's road to recovery
Anderson Silva sits down with Stephania Bell to discuss his comeback from a devastating leg injury to face Israel Adesanya at UFC 234 in Melbourne.
"Yeah, because you don't know what he's been doing," Adesanya said when asked if Silva's absence made him a more dangerous opponent. "And also it's Anderson Silva: At the end of the day, he's the longest-running UFC champion for a reason.
"He's very cunning, he's very smart and the way he approaches the game, he's a troll. So, yeah, that will be a battle of the wits, a battle of the minds, and we'll see who can out-troll one another."