The rivalry between reigning UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya and former titleholder Alex Pereira is as real as it gets, but that doesn’t mean the two can’t be cordial outside of competition.
Earlier this week, the two world-class strikers had an awkward airport run-in in Los Angeles and had their opportunity to throw down. Luckily, Adesanya and Pereira remained calm and even had a moment of embrace before sharing a laugh or two. Other rivals in the sport would have produced an airport brawl in this type of situation, but the two fighters were super professional about it.
“We were both in Australia and at the same hotel, some people from my crew saw him there but we never actually met there,” Pereira told MMA Fighting. “When we were leaving, at the Los Angeles [to] New York connection, we met in the line and said hi, had some laughs. I got there first, he came in after, and we greeted.”
In total, Adesanya and Pereira have fought each other four times. Pereira beat “Last Stylebender” twice in kickboxing before delivering an upset knockout win over Adesanya back at UFC 281 to claim the 185-pound title. Their fourth installment came at UFC 287 this past April when Adesanya finally got his revenge and stopped “Poatan” with a vicious second-round knockout to win back his middleweight belt.
Despite being cordial during their airport meetup earlier this week Pereira is adamant that his rivalry with Adesanya will never die.
“The rivalry will always exist,” Pereira said. “I’m fighting [Jan Blachowicz] now, I have to have rivalry with the guy I’m fighting, you know? He’s in there and he wants to kill me, and I want to do the same to him. How am I going to treat him [nicely]? I have to be mean there.
“It’s the same thing with Adesanya. For example, if I were to fight him again, we would have a rivalry. But now, why? We’ll meet; Adesanya, he’s there with a teammate, I’m in the same spot, and we can’t [cross paths] because we’ll destroy the whole place and beat each other up? That doesn’t exist. That type of rivalry doesn’t exist with me.”