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Alex Pereira sees Israel Adesanya, entire team ‘mentally shook’ ahead of UFC 281: ‘He doesn’t want this fight’

UFC 276: Strickland v Pereira
Alex Pereira knocked out Sean Strickland in his most recent fight.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Israel Adesanya recently said ‘f*ck the belt’, and that all he wants at UFC 281 is to beat Alex Pereira at Madison Square Garden in New York, but “Poatan” doesn’t buy that narrative.

Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, Pereira said those comments make him “a bit confused” because a win over him would already mean he still holds the middleweight belt.

“If he really wanted this, he would have done that as soon as I signed with the UFC,” Pereira said. “He’s being forced to fight, he’s the champion. It’s obvious that he cares about the belt.”

Pereira defeated Adesanya twice in kickboxing before he became a two-division champion in Glory, while “The Last Stylebender” transitioned full-time to MMA shortly after his second loss to Pereira, joining the UFC a year later and starting the incredible run that led to him winning the UFC title.

The Brazilian not only thinks his previous wins in kickboxing over the UFC champion have him worried, but also that “he knows how dangerous I am.”

“He knows I’m not like the other guys he fought, otherwise the results would have been different in both times we fought,” Pereira said. “He knows I’m different, and I’m proving that. I’m showing that in my three UFC fights. I’m being honest here. He doesn’t want this fight. Nobody wants. His team doesn’t want it. People close to him don’t want it because they know the risk. Is he good? Is he the champion? He’s there because he did what he did. Everybody knows my potential and sees my evolution.

“Right after I got in the UFC he said he would like to fight me maybe after four fights but ‘calm down’. He wanted [to fight me], but only after I did four fights. Why? He had in his mind I could lose to someone and he would say, ‘Is that the guy you want me to fight?’ I never believed that, but some people did. Others realize now he was bluffing. That’s not what he wants.

“Right after it was announced that my next fight would be for the belt against him, he and his whole team said it was a bit unfair that I was fighting for the belt because I just got here, that Adesanya did so many fights and I should do the same. Man, I’m just hearing that and taking it as something positive for me. That shows me he pretended he wanted [to fight me] and when I got here, his whole team was against it. That shows all of them, he and his team are mentally shook.”

Pereira won’t hold on to the fact he has defeated Adesanya in a different sport as it would mean it’s a lock that he gets it done in MMA, though.

“He wants to survive,” Pereira said. “I can’t stay attached to those two fights I did with him and get in the middle of the octagon, cross my arms and he goes down. I have to impose my rhythm and my game to win. I can’t think about two fights we did, or the knockout. Every fight is different. I have to go there and do what I’ve trained and be better than him.”

UFC commentator Michael Bisping recently said he doesn’t foresee Adesanya being defensive against “Poatan” at UFC 281, and the challenger agreed. Yet, Pereira said he has strategies prepared for every type of game Adesanya plays inside the octagon, including standing still like he did against Yoel Romero.

“There’s no way he fights the way he’s been fighting, he will have to be more aggressive,” Pereira said. “I’m ready for that. We’re talking MMA, we’re not talking kickboxing. I think he comes more aggressive, and that’s perfect for me.”

A win for Pereira at Madison Square Garden will make him the first man to win belts both in Glory and UFC, and join Anderson Silva and Murilo Bustamante as Brazilian 185-pound champions in the UFC. That feat alone, he said, would already make his career greater than Adesanya’s.

“If you look at what I’ve done, being double champion at the biggest [kickboxing] organization in Glory, is something Adesanya has tried and lost to fighters I beat,” Pereira said. “We know it’s very hard to become champion in Glory. I had five title defenses and became champion at light heavyweight. To transition to another sport and become champion?

“An example: Adesanya loses to me [at UFC 281] and I’m UFC champion. I’m better [than him] because I was champion in two divisions in another sport, and the history I have, and champion in the biggest organizations [Glory and UFC]. He was only champion in the UFC — which is a lot, a lot — [but] I would consider my career to be tougher than his.

“This is my point of view. I don’t now if people see it that way, but I do because I know what I’ve been through and the toughness I had to face. He knows that too, because he tried and couldn’t do it.”

And for the fans who call him arrogant for boasting about a win over Adesanya in kickboxing, he simply does not care.

“I posted something the other day and someone wrote, ‘Be more humble. The champion himself posted the video of him getting knocked out by you,’” Pereira said. “F*ck, so tell him to post a video of him knocking me out. He doesn’t have that. I’ve knocked out the guy that is UFC champion today. It doesn’t matter if that was 30 years ago, it’s part of my history and people want to take that away from me. It doesn’t make sense.”

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