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Israel Adesanya: ‘I was fine’ when UFC 281 main event was stopped, ‘bring back Steve Mazzagatti’

Israel Adesanya was in relatively good spirits following his first UFC title fight loss.

“The Last Stylebender” relinquished the UFC middleweight championship to Alex Pereira in the main event of UFC 281 after being finished via strikes two minutes into the final round. Had Adesanya hung on, it’s likely that he would have won a decision – barring any 10-8 scores – as he was up on all three scorecards heading into the fifth frame.

Still, Adesanya made it clear at UFC 281 post-fight press conference that he doesn’t feel he was in serious danger when the bout was waved off.

“I’m grateful,” Adesanya said. “What a life, what a moment. F****** crazy, isn’t it? Similar to the last time [I fought Pereira in kickboxing], same story. It’s crazy. I was fine. First thing I said to [coach Eugene Bareman] or the ref, I was fine because I was still lucid. I was in there, but s*** happens.”

Adesanya stopped short of outright criticizing the referee’s decision, only reiterating that he felt he would have been able to continue despite being hurt.

“No, I talked to my coaches [about the stoppage] and I trust them,” Adesanya said. “I trust them. But I was fine, I could see everything. My eyes might have rolled back a little bit, but I was lucid.”

It was the first stoppage loss of Adesanya’s MMA career, but the second time that Pereira finished him with strikes; the new champion defeated Adesanya with a vicious knockout punch when they met in the kickboxing ring five years ago.

Adesanya credited Pereira with hurting his legs early in the fight, eventually setting up the fight-ending sequence. He added Pereira’s kicks had an effect on his peroneal nerve.

“It was just my leg,” Adesanya said. “My leg gave away and it was really annoying, but again, kudos to him because he invested in those. I did the same thing to him, his leg’s f*****, but yeah, he just got me better.”

Prior to Saturday’s loss, Adesanya had won seven straight championship fights at 185 pounds, with his lone UFC loss being a light heavyweight title challenge of then-champion Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259.

It’s not uncommon for the UFC’s matchmakers to book immediate rematches in the event of a long-standing champion being defeated, and Adesanya expects his case to be no different.

“Of course, of course,” Adesanya said when asked if he expected a rematch to be booked next. “I’ve been doing this – this is my third fight in 10 months. Every time I fight I risk losing what you guys deem as prestigious, which it is, it’s the belt and all that s***. But nah, I put it on the line, because I’m not just trying to fight once and then chill, do my lap around and parade as the champion and not risk so much. I put it on the line and this is what happens. Again, dare to be great, and I am.”

Evoking the name of a former referee that was often criticized by UFC President Dana White, Adesanya did have one amusing suggestion as to how his bout could have ended differently

“F***, my ego would say at least let me go out on my shield,” Adesanya said. “But I don’t think I would have gone out because I was still there. I’ve seen worse stoppages. F****** bring back Steve Mazzagatti. I would have been fine. [Pereira] might have won that round but I’d still be champion.”

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