‘He might never be the same’ — Firas Zahabi says Pereira may be changed after UFC 287 loss

Tristar coach Firas Zahabi is concerned Alex Pereira may be changed after his loss to Israel Adesanya at UFC 287.

By: Kristen King | 10 months
‘He might never be the same’ — Firas Zahabi says Pereira may be changed after UFC 287 loss
Firas Zahabi reflects on Alex Pereira (pictured) and his KO loss at UFC 287 | IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

Firas Zahabi says Alex Pereira suffered a career-altering loss to Israel Adesanya. The former UFC middleweight champion was on the receiving end of a potential ‘KO of the Year’ contender from Adesanya, who tied up their UFC rivalry with a second-round KO at UFC 287 this past Saturday. 

The first round of the fight saw Pereira finding success with his calf kicks — the same ones that led to his fifth-round TKO of Adesanya at UFC 281 this past November. As ‘Po Atan’ started peppering the ‘Last Stylebender’ with those calf kicks, the former UFC middleweight champion would retreat against the fence and cover up as Pereira wailed on him with a flurry of punches. However, Adesanya revealed this was all part of his plan: play possum, wait for Pereira to drop his defenses and counter. And it paid off. 

In the midst of the ongoing onslaught, Adesanya found a home for a right hand that stunned Pereira. And then he followed with another one that sent his former foe to the canvas in a heap. A follow-up hammerfist sealed the deal, and Adesanya was now a two-time UFC middleweight champion.

Firas Zahabi says Alex Pereira ‘might never be the same’

For Zahabi, that type of knockout could have some serious consequences for Pereira and his future in fighting. On his official YouTube channel, the Tristar Gym coach explained why Adesanya may have ruined Pereira. 

“I think that that knockout, the way he fell, the way he was out, the way he got hit three times — that could be one of those career-ending fights,” said Zahabi. “Like, he might win a few fights, lose a fight — he might never be the same. 

“Once you get knocked out really badly like that — like for instance, I’ll tell you, when [José] Aldo got knocked out by [Conor] McGregor, he was never the same again,” continued Zahabi. “When Georges [St-Pierre] TKO’d B.J. Penn, when he gave him that beating [at UFC 94] — it was just a really bad beating — he was never really the same again. He had some good performances, but just never the same again.” 

Zahabi went on to advocate for a potential trilogy with Adesanya and Pereira. That would see another immediate rematch scheduled, which the newly crowned UFC middleweight champion was not too interested in when he was approached with it in his post-fight press conference. 

Names such as Khamzat Chimaev and Robert Whittaker were all raising their hands at a fight with Adesanya, but Zahabi says the trilogy should happen next. 

“I want to see an immediate rematch,” said Zahabi. “I heard there’s not going to be an immediate rematch. Why? There should be. Chimaev should fight someone else. Adesanya and Pereira have plenty of time to do a rematch, but Pereira probably won’t be ready. I heard it’s going to be six months at least [before he returns]. I really recommend he takes even longer than that. I’m sure they want to keep Adesanya busy, but I definitely think a rematch would be fun.”

From 185 to 205? Alex Pereira announces a change in weight class

As aforementioned, an immediate rematch with Adesanya and Pereira is not in the cards for the UFC. Why? Because the Brazilian announced a move from middleweight to light heavyweight for his next fight. 

“My next fight will be [at] 205,” said Pereira on his official YouTube channel. “Yeah, you heard right — my next fight will be [at] 205. I think I did my work [at] 185 and now I’m feeling good to go to 205. Like I told you, when I’m feeling good, I will go up. This will be something natural, and now I think it is.”

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About the author
Kristen King
Kristen King

Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016, getting her start with outlets such as FanSided, MyMMANews and MMA-Prospects. She joined the BE team in 2020, covering a mix of news, events and injuries. In her time with BE, Kristen has created ‘Fright of the Night,’ a series that highlights some of the worst injuries in the sport.

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