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Alex Pereira: ‘My corners and Glover kept it real with me’ heading into 5th round with Israel Adesanya

Alex Pereira remembers well the conversation he had with Glover Teixeira and his other corners going into the fifth round of his UFC 281 title fight with Israel Adesanya.

The urgency of the situation came across in former champ Teixeira’s voice after four rounds of action with Adesanya. At the time, neither Pereira or the former light-heavy champ knew he was down three rounds to one. But they knew that if they didn’t do something drastic, they figured things wouldn’t go their way.

“I knew it was going to be a very hard fight,” Pereira said via translator. “I tried to pace myself, but going into the last round, my corners and Glover kept it real with me. I looked at him and said, ‘Do I have to knock him out?’ And Glover said, ‘You do have to knock him out.’ And then I said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’”

After four rounds of action in which Adesanya played matador and once stung Pereira with a last-second barrage, the middleweight title challenger went right to work and landed the pivotal blows that set in motion a fifth-round TKO. For the second time this year, a dominant champion was taken out in the final round with one lapse in defense.

Adesanya immediately protested the call from referee Dan Miragliotta, but Perreira argued it was “absolutely correct.”

“People can say whatever, but Izzy was taking some pretty heavy hits,” Pereira said. “The referee is there for a reason, to keep you safe. So I think it was absolutely correct.”

Pereira didn’t agree that he was falling so far behind as to be in an un-winnable situation. He pointed to his work on the champion’s legs, kicking them so frequently that Adesanya later said his peroneal nerve was compromised. And there was the wrestling that no one expected him to use, a surprise as he fought off several Adesanya takedowns and delivered one of his own.

“Maybe they also tricked his mind, to the point where he had to be more aware of things, and I knocked him out in the last round,” Pereira said.

But those successes were also built on the back of an obvious failure in the combination he took at the end of the first round, which left him visibly wobbled.

“Very....very,” he said when asked how badly he was hurt. “It hurt me a lot. I’m not going to lie. But with that said, I think it helped me stay sharper, stay with it, and then I started to put more pressure, and also make him work more, which I think I was able to get him a little more tired, too.”

Pereira had basked in victory over Adesanya before, on three occasions in total after two wins in the kickboxing ring. This one, however, was on a far bigger platform, in a different sport than his first one, and facing steeper odds.

“A lot of emotions went through my head,” he said of the result. “So many years of hard work and dedication, and here I am, champion of the world.”

White pointed to Pereira’s corner speech as a moment “straight out of a movie” that turned the tide. The last time that happened, Kamaru Usman fell by head-kick in the fifth round after Leon Edwards received the motivational speech of a lifetime.

This time, it was a middleweight kingpin on the way to his sixth title defense.

Teixeira couldn’t help himself afterward and leaped over the octagon to congratulate his charge.

The sudden reversal of fortune left White contemplating an immediate rematch. The UFC executive said given the way the fight was going, and Adesanya’s reputation as a champion, a fourth fight between the two wouldn’t be unheard of.

Pereira didn’t need any additional pep talk to take another crack at his three-time foe.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “They choose who I’m going to fight, and if that’s the fight they’re going to do, I’m going to be ready.”

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