Kiwi mixed martial arts star Israel Adesanya has revealed what was going through his mind in the final round of his epic five-round war for the UFC interim middleweight title, saying he was "prepared to die".
Earlier this month Adesanya captured the UFC interim middleweight title after defeating US rival Kelvin Gastelum via unanimous decision.
The 29-year-old said he and his team couldn’t help but be emotional after what they had achieved at UFC 236 in Atlanta.
"It did hit me in the feels, all of us got really emotional because it was a significant moment in sporting history for New Zealand," said Adesanya.
"It was a significant moment in my life that fight itself, that fifth round I met who I really was.
"A lot of people don't really… a lot will not get that chance in their life. You'll never get that chance to face death in the face and know who they really are."
Adesanya has had a meteoric rise in the UFC, winning six fights in the short space of 14 months.
"I meant that when I said it, I was prepared to die. The pace I put on him [Gastelum] after that as well, if you are prepared to die then you are prepared to live and I went, I was ready," Adesanya told 1 NEWS.
"After the fight I realised 'oh shit there is another level', I thought that was the reserve, I thought that was it but there is another level and I can't wait to hit that level."
Adesanya says his success in the UFC organisation is down to him being himself.
"For me I am literally expressing myself as authentically as I can and I am staying true to me.
"I don't shy away from my anime love or my cartoon love, my dance background or anything that people might try to use against me.
"This is me so f***ing deal with it, and it is about expressing yourself as authentically as you can while staying true to yourself. That is what is going to get you far in life, not trying to be so and so."
Adesanya says he has taken learnings from famous fighters throughout history and implemented it to his fighting game and mentality.
"I get it like you can learn from people, I've learned from [Muhammed] Ali and people like [Floyd] Mayweather even."
Adesanya was rocked early in his bout against Gastelum in the first round and was stunned in the fourth by a head kick.
The Kiwi champion said that he and Gastelum brought the best out of each other.
"I remember that every day that had I lost that fight embarrassingly I wouldn't have shown who I was, that fifth round wouldn't have happened if I didn't stay true to myself.
"Going into it a little deeper the mentality I know why a lot of people break, not just in the cage but in life. I can see it, I've felt it.
"It was a couple of times, he [Gastelum] wanted to quit as well but he stayed true and there is that little voice behind [your head] that tries to seep in.
"You have just got to override that, I am so proud of myself man."
Adesanya admits he can still upgrade his skillset and learn more about pushing through mental barriers.
"I haven't mastered it yet, I've just tapped into it, just the tip of the iceberg. There's more, there's levels to this shit."
Adesanya is set to take on UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker later this year around August-September.