Israel Adesanya isn’t just defending his UFC middleweight title at UFC 276 tonight (Sat., July 2, 2022) in Las Vegas, Nevada, but he’s staring down a potential clash with rising contender and former kickboxing sensation, Alex Pereira.
If Adesanya is able to defend his 185-pound belt against Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 there won’t be many fighters left for the champ. “Last Stylebender” has already defeated the likes of Robert Whittaker (twice), Derek Brunson, Marvin Vettori and Paulo Costa. He has basically cleaned out the division and is beginning to circle the competition.
In steps Pereira, who will make his third trip to the Octagon this evening when he takes on Sean Strickland. The former GLORY Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion holds an infamous knockout win over Adesanya when the two met in a kickboxing match back in 2017:
That victory has been tied to both fighters ever since and it’s ammunition for a potential title fight if the two strikers come out of UFC 276 victorious.
According to Adesanya, Pereira hasn’t earned a shot at the UFC middleweight belt, but he’s willing to entertain the idea given his history with the Brazilian fighter.
“Earned? I don’t think he’s earned it, to be honest,” Adesanya said earlier this week (h/t MMA Fighting). “I like it though. I like the tailor-made matchups though, because it makes a bigger story, and guess what? A bigger, bigger paycheck for myself when we fight. So, deserve? I don’t know. Earned? Definitely not. But, he’s here and I like it and I want it.”
Pereira, 34, hasn’t done much thus far in his MMA career. The GLORY legend is 2-0 inside of the Octagon, but those wins came against Bruno Silva and Andreas Michailidis. If Pereira is able to knock off Strickland and end his five-fight win streak at middleweight he should have done enough to earn his shot at the belt. Until that happens, Adesanya believes “Poatan” is simply riding his coattails.
“Coattails, because the guy’s supposedly beat me in kickboxing and he’s still trying to chase me because I’m the one winning in life,” said Adesanya. “And I like that story. It’s the story we’re telling ourselves. The arc in the story is going to be beautiful if he gets past Sean Strickland.
“I said Jiri [Prochazka] light heavyweight champ, three fights in the UFC but an extensive record in MMA. This guy’s only had like four or five fights, something crazy. But you know what they’re doing, but I like that because I get to take him out early, before — he’s going to get good. But not right now.”
If both middleweights win this weekend it’s a matchup that UFC is clearly looking to make. Pereira has already stated that he believes he’d finish Adesanya even quicker with smaller gloves on, but “Last Stylebender” is confident he can do the same. It’s a rematch that would create ample buzz if the two world-class strikers can settle their business inside of the Octagon at UFC 276.
“Imagine what I can do with four-ounce gloves,” Adesanya said. “I did the same thing to him in the second fight ... I f***** this guy up in the first fight. Not crazy, but the judges gave it to him. In the second fight, I had him on skates and I made a judgment call, an error on my part, and it was a beautiful story for him, because in his backyard, down two rounds, in the third round he come and knocks me out. That’s a beautiful story for him.
“Go back to UFC 92. Wanderlei Silva vs. Rampage Jackson. That’s a clear example of how I see this going the third time. He who laughs last, laughs best, and I’m going to have the last laugh.”
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 276 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ABC/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
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