One of the biggest rivalries in the combat sports world seemingly came to a close earlier this year, when Israel Adesanya finally beat Alex Pereira in the UFC Octagon. Adesanya’s victory over his Brazilian foe at UFC 287 on April 8th marked the first time in four attempts that the ‘Last Stylebender’ found a way to best ‘Po Atan’.
Despite winning large portions of their previous three contests, Pereira had twice defeated Adesanya via KO—taking the Nigerian-born New Zealander’s UFC title in the process back at UFC 281 in 2022. That kind of lopsided record would seem to provide fertile grounds for both men to continue their rivalry. But with his belt firmly back within his grasp Adesanya was quick to declare their sporting feud at an end.
“I don’t keep score, I settle them,” Adesanya told reporters after UFC 287. “Now it’s settled.”
That, along with Pereira’s move to the light heavyweight division, seemed like they were the final word on the matter. But it may just be that’s not the case.
Israel Adesanya gives condition for 5th Pereira fight
In a recent interview on the MMA Hour, Israel Adesanya revealed that the chance for another fight with his Brazilian rival may actually be a lot closer than fans would have guessed. With Pereira currently booked against former champion Jan Blachowicz, a win there likely puts him on the shortlist of light heavyweight title contenders. And if Pereira can win the belt? Then that’s a fight Adesanya is interested in taking.
“If he wins the belt at 205 I’ll do it again,” Adesanya explained (transcript via MMA Junkie). “But if not – I think he’s done with it. I’m done with it. I think everyone else wants to see it, but we’ve moved on.
“If I were to bet money on it, no (I don’t think it happens). 205, I’ve been there, it’s hard. If he wins the 205 belt, though, they might give him a fast track like they did with me, and then they’re going to have a magic, crazy, f-cking epic fight at 205 with me and him. That will be us for the fifth time.”
Adesanya added that even if he and Pereira fought another 10 times and he lost all 10, that wasn’t important. What was important to him was proving that he could win that bout after coming so close before and falling short.
“But I just know I can beat this guy. I put so much pressure on myself that last camp. I went to some place. … I’m never going to let my story be written like this, like, ‘Oh, he’s the greatest ever, but he could never beat this guy.’ So I made sure to put it on myself to beat this guy, and I did.”
Adesanya waiting for next challenger
Even if Adesanya is willing to consider another fight with Pereira, it’s clear that another bout between the two men is nowhere on the near horizon. In the more immediate future, the 33-year-old still needs a next challenger to his middleweight crown. The most likely place for him to get one is an upcoming bout between former champ (and two time Adesanya opponent) Robert Whittaker and rising contender Dricus Du Plessis.
Du Plessis has built some solid bad blood for a potential booking with Adesanya already, using the champion’s immigrant past as a way to needle him over not residing on the continent while also sporting some version of the label ‘African Champion’. The tactic seems to have done well to get under Adesanya’s skin, with the City Kickboxing star saying “I pray to God he keeps winning—I will gladly drag his carcass across South Africa.”
Du Plessis vs. Whittaker is set to take place at UFC 290 during International Fight Week in Las Vegas, on July 8th. The winner of that bout is expected to face Adesanya just two months later at UFC 293, on September 10th in Sydney, Australia. It remains to be seen whether that fight can actually be booked given the short turnaround time required for either Whittaker or Du Plessis, when either man comes out the victor from their fight.
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