Former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya did not appear to be in any big hurry to book his 185-pound rematch against newly-crowned division kingpin Alex Pereira after suffering a late knockout loss to “Poatan” in the UFC 281 headliner last November.
Then offers started pouring in for the hard-hitting Brazilian, first from top middleweight contender (and former champion) Robert Whittaker and then from newly-minted light heavyweight titleholder Jamahal Hill, leading to this sudden fight announcement.
“Two factors: Why is it happening now? And for what reason is it happening?” Daniel Cormier said on his YouTube channel (transcribed by Farah Hannoun). “One: Obviously we all knew that it would be at Israel Adesanya’s decision or discretion whether or not he would get a championship fight. From the moment he lost, I was saying and screaming from the rooftops, ‘If anyone deserves an immediate rematch, it’s Israel Adesanya.’”
“Maybe he’s worried that if Pereira fights someone else, he loses,” Cormier continued. “Izzy still holds a ton of cards but I just questioned whether or not the decisions being made are based – or the timing of the decision is based on this newfound push that Alex has been experiencing because of Jamahal being the champion and beating his mentor and training partner in Glover Teixeira. It just didn’t feel like this was in the works before.”
Adesanya could also be worried that if Pereira fights someone else, he wins, particularly Hill. “The Last Stylebender” tried to become double champion when he moved up in weight to battle Jan Blachowicz at UFC 259 back in early 2021 but dropped a unanimous decision.
UFC 287 will also feature the welterweight grudge match between former title challengers Jorge Masvidal and Gilbert Burns. Elsewhere on the card, Kevin Holland and Santiago Ponzinibbio collide at welterweight while Rob Font and Adrian Yanez battle at 135 pounds.