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Jared Cannonier takes photos at UFC 276 media day in Las Vegas. (Photo by Nolan Walker/Zuffa LLC)

Jared Cannonier Wants To Be One With Everything

Middleweight Title Challenger Jared Cannonier Hopes To Fully Embrace Everything About UFC 276

Ask Jared Cannonier about the major changes that he made in pursuit of competing at the highest level in mixed martial arts and he’ll tell you that he didn’t make any changes; he made choices.

“Yes, there have been a lot of drastic changes throughout my career but, to me, they weren’t changes — they were decisions, and they’re all on the same road, same path, and that’s all one journey that I’ve been on,” said the surging contender, who faces Israel Adesanya for the middleweight title on Saturday night in the UFC 276 main event.

Order UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier

Included in those choices was the decision to leave a job with the Federal Aviation Administration and relocate from Anchorage, Alaska to the Greater Phoenix Area in order to train with the all-star cast at The MMA Lab.

Main Event Preview | UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier
Main Event Preview | UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier

Once there, he started working his way down the divisional scale, arriving as a heavyweight before making a five-fight stop at light heavyweight, and ultimately settling in at middleweight, where he’s gone 5-1 with four finishes and consecutive victories over Kelvin Gastelum and Derek Brunson to land opposite Adesanya this weekend in Las Vegas.

While Cannonier always felt he had the potential to enjoy great success as a mixed martial artist, it wasn’t until he stepped on the mats at The Lab for the first time that he truly believed he was capable of claiming championship gold in the UFC.

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“When I touched down on the mats (for the first time), I knew I had the potential to go far,” said the 38-year-old challenger, who went the distance with former titleholders Glover Teixeira and Jan Blachowicz during this brief stop-over at light heavyweight. “I never put any distinct marks on it by saying, ‘I know I can be a champion in this organization or on this planet;’ I don’t like to put limits on myself. I also knew I had the potential to be great.

“As far as my career goes, I knew when I touched down in The MMA Lab that I could be a champion within the UFC,” he added. “I was at heavyweight at the time, so I thought I was going to be champion at heavyweight.

“I still think I can be champion at heavyweight; let’s not get that mixed up because it has never changed. Whenever I was going down, I still thought I could be champion where I was leaving or going to. I’m going in there and giving it my all, and I wouldn’t be in there doing it if I didn’t think I could go as far as I’ve gone.”

Jared Cannonier kicks Kelvin Gastelum in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - AUGUST 21: (L-R) Jared Cannonier kicks Kelvin Gastelum in a middleweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on August 21, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

That includes going out there on Saturday night and knocking “The Last Stylebender” from his position atop the middleweight pyramid.

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Though he’s extremely complimentary of Adesanya as a competitor, Cannonier is able to separate his admiration for the City Kickboxing representative as a talent and someone else embarking on this mixed martial arts journey, and how he looks at him as the man that will stand opposite him on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.

As much as he relishes the opportunity to test himself against someone he holds in such high esteem and appreciates the chance to compete at the highest level against someone of his caliber, the challenger isn’t here just to pick up a participation trophy and stand in awe of Adesanya’s greatness.

 Jared Cannonier punches Derek Brunson in their middleweight fight during the UFC 271 event at Toyota Center on February 12, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Jared Cannonier punches Derek Brunson in their middleweight fight during the UFC 271 event at Toyota Center on February 12, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

“Israel is the literally Boss FATE,” he said with a laugh, referencing end-chain characters from Final Fantasy XXIV that take a great deal of time and energy to reach. “Like he’s said before, he’s not the typical guy. He’s not the muscle-bound, brawny, alpha male that you see walking around, but he’s a big dog in the yard, nonetheless.

“I take much delight at the idea of going up against that, testing myself against that, but that’s not the way I’m approaching that — as if I’m going up against it and just testing myself.

“I’m going in there to go and get him,” he added. “I’m approaching it as I’m the big dog and I’ve got the biggest bite. I may not have the biggest bark, but I’ve got the biggest bite, and when I start biting, things start moving.”

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For the soft-spoken, low-key challenger, the hype and pageantry surrounding this weekend’s championship main event is appreciated, but unessential to him. He knows it comes part and parcel with being in this position, but in his view of things, Saturday night is just another fight, against just another man, and beating him will feel no different than any other victory.

“For me, it’s going to be just like any other fight,” he said of his championship clash. “I’m not really putting all the extra pressure on this because there is enough pressure on fights as it is with a guy trying to do what he does and lessen my health.

“I feel the fact that a belt is on the line, more money, all the stuff going on around it — all the extra work, the interviews — all that is inconsequential to me. I’m not motivated to be in this position by any of that; I was only motivated by fighting my next opponent. It’s always good that the title is on the line and all that other good stuff that goes along with it, but I’m not focusing on that aspect of it; I’m focusing on my preparation, the type of fighter I want to be on Saturday night.”

Rise of Jared Cannonier
Rise of Jared Cannonier

None of it has anything to do with Adesanya, and everything to do with being the completely present from the time the cage door closes and doing what it takes to once again feel that ineffable feeling that comes with having your hand raised in victory in the center of the Octagon.

“It always feels beyond relief; I don’t even know how to explain that feeling of when you get in a fight and come out victorious,” Cannonier said with a laugh when asked how it would feel to have his hand raised, the middleweight title wrapped around his waist to close out the show this weekend at UFC 276. “Whatever that word is that is ‘beyond relief’ — that word plus more.

“But I’m not going to put more stock on it because it’s Israel,” he added. “It’s a fight; I don’t even try to think about what it would feel like or anything like that. The only thing I think about or focus on is being one with everything in the moment. I want to be one with everything in the moment.

“When he’s doing his thing, I want to be one with it. When I’m doing my thing, I don’t want him to be. He won’t be able to be one with it. If he is, good on him — now we have an epic battle on our hands, so we shall see.”

Order UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier

UFC 276: Adesanya vs Cannonier took place on Saturday, July 2, 2022 live T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass