At UFC 281, Adesanya and Pereira faced off for the third time in combat sports, and once again, things did not end well for Adesanya. Though he was behind on the scorecards entering the final round, Pereira pulled off an incredible comeback, hurting Adesanya with a left hook and then pouring on shots until referee Marc Goddard jumped in for the standing TKO.
The loss moved Adesanya to 0-3 against Pereira, and while he isn’t a fan of the stoppage, the former UFC middleweight champion is still in good spirits after losing his belt, in part because he knows they’ll meet again.
“I’ll watch the fight again,” Adesanya told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I haven’t watched the fight again, but I don’t think I’m going to fixate on it, because it’s not one of these things that’s like, ‘Oh, goddamn it!’ I’ll fight him again. I’ll probably fight him two more times.”
Though Adesanya is 0-3 against Pereira, including two knockout losses, his first two defeats were in kickboxing, making it much more likely the UFC would book a fourth fight. UFC President Dana White even said as much, suggesting an immediate rematch could be in store. Adesanya certainly agrees, saying that his next fight will be against Pereira, even if Pereira loses the title to someone else before then.
“I’ll still fight him,” Adesanya said. “If he was going to fight someone else and lose the belt, I’ll still fight him [next]. I’ll fight him. I hope he’s the champion, but I’m just saying, hypothetically, I’ll still fight him.
“I’m crazy, bro. I can beat him. I know I can beat him. You’ve seen I can beat him. He just — I won’t say luck, f*** luck — he just invested well. A good game plan. He’s a good fighter, but I know I’m...it’s my ego, maybe. Sure. But I’m allowed. I just believe I’m better.”
Until he gets the chance to prove it, though, Adesanya now finds himself in unfamiliar territory, no longer the middleweight champion for the first time in three years. While some might expect him to be taking the loss pretty hard, “The Last Stylebender” said it’s simply another step on the journey.
“People expect me to handle this like they would, so they project, and are probably just like, under a rock, or a cave somewhere,” Adesanya said. “But I’m like, nah. I’m living my life. I’m really grateful. I meant that. This is no fugazi s***. I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in, the opportunities I’ve gotten, to be able to do what I’ve done, and to be able to set up — not even a comeback, but set up for the next chapter.”