At UFC 281, Adesanya defends his middleweight title against Pereira, an opponent that has previously defeated him twice in kickboxing. That history has been a major part of the build to Saturday’s main event at Madison Square Garden in New York and Adesanya promises that this fight will have a cinematic vibe.
“I just want to make it a horror movie,” Adesanya said on The MMA Hour this past Monday. “That’s how I feel. I’ve decided this is going to be a horror movie. This is going to be bloody. This is going to be one where it’s, like, it won’t last as long as me and Kelvin [Gastelum], but it’s going to get like that. It’s going to be like, who can swim? Who can swim the longest? Who’s going to drown?
“That’s what I see is going to happen. It’s going to happen. I want to make it a horror movie because it’s been a horror movie in the gym.”
At media day on Wednesday, Adesanya was asked what horror movie specifically he seeks to recreate and he mentioned the critically acclaimed 2018 hit A Quiet Place, a film that features a world overrun by blind monsters that attack with savage precision upon hearing the slightest whisper. Adesanya would likely appreciate the same kind of acclaim, given the heat he took for an uneventful—but dominant—win over Jared Cannonier in his previous title defense.
Adesanya’s second kickboxing fight ended with a frightening scene in its own right as “The Last Stylebender” was caught by a knockout left hand from Pereira in the March 2017 encounter. Afterwards, medics rushed into the ring to check on Adesanya, which he says was all part of the show.
“It’s fugazi,” Adesanya said. “The [oxygen] mask they put on me… I was lying down and then they were just like, ‘Stay there, stay there.’ Then they put the mask on me. I was like, ‘I’m breathing fine.’ But it’s all theatrics. Then after they announced the winner, even before that, they tried to put me on the stretcher. I was like, ‘Naw, I’m good. I can walk. I’m fine.’”
With over five years having passed since what would turn out to be Adesanya’s last kickboxing fight, the UFC champion can brush off the result now and he’s taken a similar approach to hyping up what is, on paper, a classic grudge match.
“I don’t really need to say anything,” Adesanya said. “The fight’s sold. I don’t need to try and get under his skin. For what? Certain people, like when I fought [Derek] Brunson, that was easy because I knew how to poke the bear in that one. [Pereira] doesn’t even speak English, I don’t need to say anything to him.
“It would be foolish of me to try and intimidate him, that’s the wrong tactics. You have to change your tactics according to the situation. All I’m doing right now is just staying patient and doing my work.”