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Israel Adesanya on Alex Pereira trilogy bout: If he wins light heavyweight title, ‘I’ll do it again’

Israel Adesanya vs. Alex Pereira one more time?

Another fight between the longtime rivals seems unlikely given that Pereira is set to move to the light heavyweight division for an upcoming fight with Jan Blachowicz, while Adesanya awaits the next challenger for his middleweight title. But given their history, it’s not impossible the two could face off again in the octagon.

Adesanya scored the first win of his four-fight series with Pereira at UFC 287 this past April, finally vanquishing Pereira after a title fight loss at UFC 281 and two previous kickboxing losses to the Brazilian striker. Though both seem content to move on from the series for now, Adesanya would entertain an MMA trilogy bout with Pereira if Pereira becomes champion in his new division.

“If he wins the belt at 205, I’ll do it again,” Adesanya said on The MMA Hour. “If not, I think he’s done with it, I’m done with it, everyone else wants to see it, but we’re moved on. It’s life.”

Pereira was a two-division champion in the Glory Kickboxing promotion, so he’s no stranger to conquering two weight classes. He meets Blachowicz, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, in the co-main event of UFC 291 on July 29.

One of Blachowicz’s successful title defenses came against Adesanya, so Adesanya had some matchup advice for Pereira during their recent airport run-in.

“I think [Pereira] might knock him out. … We talked for about a good two minutes or so and I gave him some advice on how to handle Jan,” Adesanya said. “We had the same idea, like, he’s going to knock him out, but I warned him, ‘Look, just be careful because he knows your striking is really good so he’s going to be patient with you like he was with me.’ What we expected him to do, he didn’t do, because he’s a great striker. He had the same idea, but I feel like if Jan doesn’t take him out, [Pereira] is going to knock him out.”

One reason Adesanya has been non-committal when it comes to another fight with Pereira is because of how satisfying it was for him to knock Pereira out in their second MMA fight. Pereira owns knockout wins over Adesanya in both kickboxing and in the UFC, which Adesanya feels cast a shadow over his legacy.

Now, he’s content with whatever happens next in regards to Pereira.

“We’ve still got more to go, but definitely,” Adesanya said when asked if his UFC 287 win was one of the most gratifying moments of his career. “I’ve already said this, if we fight another 10 times and he beats me all 10 times, I don’t care. It’s not about that. I just have to prove to myself that I can beat this guy because every time I fought him—The first time I won that fight, the judges got it wrong. The second time, I was beating him and he got me. The third time, again, MSG, I was beating him, then he got me. I’m like, we know we can beat this guy, but he just has that spirit. He’s a great fighter. He’s a cool guy, I like his story, even in Brazil when he knocked me out, that’s a cool story for him. It’s a really cool story for him, but I just knew I could beat this guy.

“I just had to put it on myself. I put so much pressure on myself that last camp … I really had to go to some dark places and I did that for myself. I went in my hole and I just did my thing and I had to do that because I knew this was my shot. I put that pressure on myself because I was like, I’m never going to let my story be written like this, like ‘He’s the greatest ever, but he could never beat that guy.’ So I made sure I put it on myself to beat this guy and I did.”

It’s unclear how much work Pereira has to do at 205 pounds to secure a title shot. Should he defeat Blachowicz, it could vault him into a title shot against current champion Jamahal Hill (Hill has already expressed interest in fighting Pereira). However, he may also have to wait in line if former champion Jiri Prochazka returns from injury soon.

Given the circumstances, Adesanya isn’t making any guarantees about another fight with Pereira.

“If I’m going to bet money on it, no,” Adesanya said. “205, I’ve been there, it’s hard. It’s not an easy task. If he wins the 205 belt though and they might give him a fast track like they did with me, then they’re going to have a magic, crazy, f****** epic fight at 205 with me and him. And that will be us for the fifth time. Isn’t that wild?”

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