• Moves To Reclaim Middleweight Title In Miami
Nigerian-born, New Zealand based Mixed Martial Act fighter, Israel Adesanya has vowed to use today’s UFC 287 battle against the middleweight champion, Alex Pereira, to remind people how great he is inside the ring.
“Not many people get the opportunity to show how great they are and to rise to the occasion when all odds are stacked against them. I feel like the underdog,” Adesanya said yesterday in an interview with BBCSports. “Because of what happened in the last fight, people have goldfish memories. They’ve forgotten what I’ve done in this game and it’s time to remind people how great I am.”
Adesanya, a native of Odogbolu, Ogun State, says his rivalry with Pereira could be the ‘greatest storyline in MMA history.’
The duo meet for a fourth time at UFC 287 in Miami today, with Pereira winning all three previous fights.
The Brazilian, 35, has won twice in kickboxing and once in MMA, claiming the UFC title in November.
His latest victory ended Adesanya’s three-year dominance of the division.
“This is probably one of, if not the greatest storyline in MMA history,” Adesanya stated.
Adesanya, 33, unified the middleweight division in 2019, and defended it five times before running into long-time nemesis Pereira.
Adesanya lost kickboxing fights to Pereira in 2016 and 2017, the latter defeat his final showing in the sport before transitioning full-time to MMA.
Pereira joined the UFC in 2021, winning his first three fights to be fast-tracked into a title bout and third meeting with Adesanya.
Despite being a betting underdog after spending significantly less time in the octagon than Adesanya, Pereira secured a fifth-round stoppage to stun the champion.
Adesanya is taking inspiration from American rapper, Eminem, as he tries to reclaim the middleweight title.
“I’m down two fights in kickboxing and one in MMA. This is my one shot, my Eminem moment,” said Adesanya.
“You get one shot. Don’t miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime and this is it.
“Imagine if I get it done better than he’s ever done it? I don’t keep score I settle them and he who laughs last laughs best.”
Adesanya’s flamboyant striking, craftiness in the cage and mastery of distance control has seen him outclass opponents such as Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa, and many believe he was outpointing Pereira in their New York bout until the fifth round.
The defeat was Adesanya’s first in 13 UFC middleweight fights.
“I know how I can beat this guy. Every time I fight this guy I’m dominating him, but he has this special ability to recover and put his foot on the gas, so I have to find a way to take him out of the driver’s seat, which I will,” said Adesanya.
“He doesn’t bother me or annoy me. You guys know usually I’m peaking around the corner at what’s next – I set up my next fights on the sly – but this time I’m dead focused on him, my target, between the eyes.
“I’m like an excited dog outside the park. I’m having to tell my body to chill, but soon I’ll be unleashed.”
Pereira said: “People say he was dominating me in the last fight. If Israel wants to see it that way, that’s OK, but I see it a little bit different.
“I was winning the first round before those late shots. Round two I clearly won. Round three I was growing into the fight and he didn’t take me down; it was a scramble.