Israel Adesanya versus Sean Strickland won’t be happening anytime soon, but fans did get a little glimpse of banter between the two during UFC 276 fight week.
Positioned directly vertical from each other on the stage, Adesanya was literally in the line of fire of the always brash and outspoken Strickland. With the previously No. 4-ranked contender jabbing at the champion, Adesanya did his best to remind his potential challenger of what was in front of him.
Come fight night, Strickland’s opponent, Alex Pereira, got the best of him via first round knockout (watch highlights), while Adesanya later cruised to a clear-cut unanimous decision win against Jared Cannonier in the main event (watch highlights).
“He should’ve listened to me,” Adesanya said of his Strickland interaction on his YouTube channel (h/t MMA Junkie). “He should’ve listened to me when I told him, ‘Just focus on the guy you have in front of you, not me.’ He was trying to be like that idiot in the back of the class. I hated having to address that idiot. Like, I’m trying to f—king work and the guy I’m focused on is next to me or down the line and this idiot, this dumbass in the back of the class just disrupting.
“I was like, ‘Yo, it’s not me you need to worry about. Focus on this guy,’” he continued. “He thought he had the opportunity, and I’m like, ‘OK, bet.’ If he actually did what he had to do, me and him would be fighting next.”
Strickland’s performance against Pereira has been heavily criticized since fight night. Imposing zero threats of a takedown or wrestling gameplan, Strickland walked down the Brazilian kickboxing sensation to his detriment, absorbing a picture-perfect left hook.
The North Carolina native has since addressed the loss and said he wouldn’t change a thing, but Adesanya doesn’t agree with such a sentiment. Now, a mixed martial arts (MMA) trilogy bout between him and Pereira is expected later this year after two previous kickboxing encounters.
“Don’t fight with your ego, he fought with his ego,” Adesanya said. “He said, ‘I thought I was doing pretty well.’ You’re not doing pretty well. … I’ve seen this before, I’ve done this before. You can see it coming. … I was like, ‘change up,’ but Pereira didn’t need a change-up. He just threw a left hook, really, really simple. Boom dropped him, right hand, finished him.”
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