Sometimes fighting rivalries can exceed the limits of the cage. Though bad blood and MMA go hand in hand, a certain moment of last Saturday’s UFC 287 made some fans and pundits believe that the limits of what is accepted as provocation may have been crossed.
On April 8, former UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira had to not only deal with losing his title to Israel Adesanya in a brutal knockout loss, but also with his rival’s post-fight antics at UFC 287. While ‘Poatan’ was still recovering from the fight-ending strikes, the ‘Last Stylebender’ taunted the Brazilian’s son, who was in the crowd, by mimicking a gesture the boy had done six years ago.
Alex Pereira and Israel Adesanya go back a long way
Back in 2017, Adesanya fought his last kickboxing bout against Pereira and lost via knockout in the third round. While the result was being announced, Alex’s son, who was five years old at the time, threw himself down on the ring similarly to how Israel had been when he got knocked out. When Adesanya defeated Pereira last Saturday, he made sure to find Poatan’s son in the crowd before reproducing the boy’s action from several years prior in front of him.
In an interview with MMA Mania, Pereira shared his opinion on the matter. Though the Brazilian understands taunting and trash talking is a part of the fighting game, he did not comprehend why Adesanya would hold on to a grudge against a young boy, especially for so many years. While Alex sees that Israel’s dream was to beat Poatan in a fight, the Brazilian feels his rival may taken the bad blood a tad too far when his child got involved in the provocations.
“I wouldn’t do the same. I can play with him. I’ve always played with him. I teased him. It was something that happened. But he, I don’t know. He’s another child. I don’t know what his feeling was. It’s seven years ago. He was enduring it and saw this joy that he had after the knockout. Because that was his dream and he accomplished it.
“But you’re comparing him to a child that was five years old at the time, right?” Alex Pereira said. “I don’t have that mindset. I can prove it because today he is 12 years old. Before the fight I saw that he was being influenced by other people. Sometimes (my son) took part in some interviews. Reporters asked him if he was going to do it and he said he would. Because he’s a kid, he thinks it’s funny.
“My kid was wanting to do the same thing up there. I said to him, ‘No. Stop. Don’t do it. Stay here and don’t do anything.’ I’m a conscious guy on everything I’m saying here, and I wouldn’t do it,” Pereira said. “But if (Adesanya) felt better that way, okay. If it’s a relief he had and he thinks it’s better for him, okay. That won’t change anything for me.”
Alex Pereira lost his first MMA fight since 2015
The win over Pereira not only made Adesanya (24-2) recover the UFC middleweight title, but it also marked his first win in four fights against Alex. Having lost twice to the Brazilian in kickboxing and once in MMA when he got TKO’d in November 2022, this recent knockout win at UFC 287 became a historic one in Israel’s career.
The 34-year-old’s other losses to Pereira took place on April 2016, when Israel dropped a rather contested unanimous decision at Glory of Heroes 1, in Shenzhen, China, and then again on March 2017, when he got knocked out at Glory of Heroes 7, in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Before that, Israel Adesanya was on a three-fight win streak, with unanimous decision victories over Jared Cannonier, Robert Whittaker and Marvin Vettori, respectively in July and February of 2022 and June of 2021.
Meanwhile, Alex Pereira (7-2) suffered his first UFC loss and had his seven-fight win streak snapped. In the Octagon, the 35-year-old holds wins over Andreas Michailidis, Bruno Silva, Sean Strickland and Adesanya. Alex’s only other loss in MMA took place in October 2015, when he got submitted by Quemuel Ottoni, at Jungle Fight 82.
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