Israel Adesanya is eager to finally get that elusive win over Alex Pereira, maybe a little too eager according to his coach Eugene Bareman.
“The Last Stylebender” looks to regain the UFC middleweight championship when he rematches Pereira at UFC 287 on April 8. It will actually be the fourth time the two meet in a combat sports contest, with Pereira also holding two kickboxing victories over Adesanya.
Pereira defeated Adesanya via a dramatic fifth-round TKO at UFC 281 this past November and while it seemed possible that Pereira’s first title defense would be against a fresh opponent or that he might even consider challenging for a light heavyweight title — Pereira was a two-division champion for Glory Kickboxing — a second UFC bout was quickly scheduled for the longtime rivals.
On The MMA Hour, Bareman suggested that Adesanya may have been better served pushing the revenge match back after recently undergoing minor surgery on his ankle.
“If I had a choice, which I quite often don’t, then I would probably have waited longer just to give Israel a little bit more time between a stoppage like that and the next fight,” Bareman said. “Even in an ideal world I would have done what they do in boxing. I would have brought in a couple of guys for Israel to warm up on and then fight [Pereira]. In the UFC, we don’t have that choice and, quite frankly, Israel is 100 percent adamant that he must be the next person to fight Alex Pereira. Beyond all doubt.
“So much so that when they were talking about Pereira fighting—I can’t remember, it was for one particular card, I think they had no main event or they had someone pull out of a main event at the end of last year—so much so that when there was talk that Pereira was going to fight, Israel was like, ‘We’ll fight.’ Before Israel had his surgery and everything, Israel was prepared to take the fight on four to five weeks’ notice if Pereira was willing to take the fight.”
It’s unclear if Bareman is referring to UFC 283, which needed a new main event in a hurry after a light heavyweight championship rematch between Jiri Prochazka and Glover Teixeira fell through due to a Prochazka injury, or a possible title defense against Khamzat Chimaev, but regardless, Adesanya eventually got his wish.
Not only is Adesanya looking to wash the bitter taste of three previous defeats out of his mouth, the most recent loss was particularly difficult to swallow given that he lost via a standing TKO that had some questioning referee Marc Goddard’s decision to stop the fight. Bareman didn’t factor in the circumstances of that stoppage when it came to considering a rematch.
“Disagree,” Bareman said when asked if he felt the UFC 281 main event was stopped early. “You know my background, so I could quite possibly just have an innate feeling to err on the side of caution, but I believe the chances of Israel coming out of that without being further hurt were minimal. He was probably going to get hurt even more.
“And to that end, I’m glad he stopped it, because he prevented Israel from being damaged even further and we’re in the position now where we’re able to be healthy and have a second go of it, trying to beat that monster. I’m happy with the stoppage.”
If not April, Bareman would like to have seen the next Pereira vs. Adesanya fight pushed back a month or two, but he’s pleased with how preparations have gone even with the fight happening sooner than he’d hoped.
“I would have been happy with May, June, but give or take, I’m okay with the timeline that we have,” Bareman said. “Izzy has been training for a while now, so we’re in our usual frame of mind and our usual state. We’re calculating the days as they go by and monitoring the progress and we’re in an OK spot. We’re always in an OK spot this far out. We’re always in a spot where I want more to happen, so I push for more to happen.”