If Pereira (6-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) follows through on his promise to claim the UFC middleweight title from Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) on Saturday, he would be up 3-0 in their head-to-head matchups between kickboxing and MMA competition. “The Last Stylebender” has six consecutive title defenses and would be warranted to get a rematch if he drops the strap, and Pereira agrees. Whether Adesanya would actually want the fight, however, is a different story.
“It makes no difference who they want to put after (to challenge for the belt),” Pereira told MMA Junkie and other reporters through an interpreter at UFC 281 media day. “He deserves it, but after this fight he isn’t going to want it.”
Pereira’s pair of kickboxing wins over Adesanya included a decision in the first fight and a knockout in the second contest. He’s the only person to stop Adesanya in combat sports, and that result has been a massive selling point in bringing the pair together for the UFC 281 headliner.
Adesanya has said the matchup, which takes place at Madison Square Garden and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and ESPN+, is “personal” to him because of the history. Pereira denies that notion on his end and said Adesanya’s comments prove that he’s rattled by the prospect of doing this fight.
“No (it’s not personal), not for me,” Pereira said. “I will do my work and job like I would if I was fighting anyone else. I just focus on fighting for the title. …. I don’t know how he would possibly be over that (knockout). It’s still in his mind.”
The expectations from many observers is that Pereira and Adesanya will pick up where they lift off in the kickboxing ring and engage in a striking-only affair in the octagon. Pereira said he’s ready for everything, but he has no expectations of grappling. And if Adesanya tries to take the fight to the mat, Pereira said it will already be over for him.
“Anything can happen – many possibilities,” Pereira said. “Maybe Israel can go and try to take me down. If that happens, it’s going to be more of desperation instead of strategy.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.