Sport

‘UNDERDOG’ BITES BACK

Adesanya seeks his ‘8 Mile’ moment at UFC 287 against middleweight champion Pereira

Adesanya seeks his ‘8 Mile’ moment at UFC 287 against middleweight champion Pereira
Alex Pereira battles Israel Adesanya during their middleweight fight at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on 12 November, 2022 in New York City. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Alex Pereira has proven to be Israel Adesanya’s fighting bogey but ‘The Last Stylebender’ is determined to ‘remind people how great I am’ this weekend.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight champion Alex Pereira (7-1) will be defending his title against the man he took it from, Israel Adesanya (23-2) on Sunday morning, 9 April, at UFC 287 in Miami, Florida.

Adesanya held the longest win streak in the division (16 fights) and the tied longest overall before he was knocked out in the fifth round by Pereira in UFC 281 in November last year.

“This is probably the greatest storyline in MMA (mixed martial arts) history,” Adesanya said to the media this week.

“It’s probably one of, if not the greatest storyline in MMA history, and not many people get the opportunity to show how great they are, to rise to the occasion when all the odds are stacked against them, when people are counting them out.”

The UFC 281 fight was the third time in three fights between the two competitors that the Brazilian Pereira came out on top — after beating Adesanya twice during their time as kickboxers in 2016 and 2017.

“I’m down two fights in kickboxing, one fight in MMA, so I’m down three, and this is like in every movie — your one shot,” Adesanya added.

“This is my Eminem moment, my ‘8 Mile’ moment. ‘You get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime’, and this is it. This is it for me.”

Settling a score

Although the Nigerian Adesanya is down 3-0 in all fights to Pereira, it doesn’t tell the full story of how competitive the brawls have been.

“In this fight, I feel like the underdog. I feel like everyone’s counting me out,” Adesanya added

“I feel like because of the results of the last fight, people are like goldfish memories. They forget what I’ve done in this game. They forgot who I am. It’s time to remind people how great I am.”

Although, Adesanya hasn’t actually been an underdog in any of his UFC fights. Even in his only other loss in the UFC, when he moved up to 93 kgs — in the light heavyweight division — against Jan Blachowicz in an attempt to become a two-division champion.

Alex Pereira lands a kick on Israel Adesanya

Alex Pereira lands a kick on Israel Adesanya during their middleweight fight at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on 12 November, 2022 in New York City. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

‘The last Stylebender’ as Adesanya is known, goes into the fight against  Pereira as the favourite again at UFC 287 — as he did in their previous fight — despite his recent loss.

Adesanya, however, doesn’t believe the odds are on his side after becoming a challenger again following a more than three-year reign as champion.

“If he was on my team, I would tell him, ‘Man, don’t do this fight now,’” Pereira said at UFC 287 media day on Wednesday.

“He’s had a brilliant career, but he saw there’s no success against me, so I would definitely advise him against doing this fight now. Fight once or twice, and then come back and try again.”

Adesanya interestingly acknowledged that his motivation lies in beating Brazilian nemesis more than regaining the middleweight title belt. “I’ve never not been motivated to fight this guy, but for this one, I’ve put the pressure on myself,” the 33-year-old said.

“F*** the belt, f*** everything else. I have to beat this guy, so that’s my motivation, just beating him. Like I said, they can say whatever they want, it’s 1-0 or 3-0. I don’t keep score, I settle them and I just need one and I’m going to get it done.”

Other fights

The co-main event at UFC 287 sees another potential slugfest with Gilbert Burns (21-5) stepping into the octagon with Jorge Masvidal (35-16).

The welterweight bout is another opportunity for Burns to inch closer to a second title shot against Leon Edwards who defeated Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 recently — Usman incidentally beat Burns for the welterweight belt at UFC 258 in February 2021.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be easy, I think it’s gonna be bloody.” Burns said.

“I think you’re gonna get to a point that we’re gonna bang, you’re going to a war, and let’s see a finish. You know, maybe second, maybe late third round. But I’m looking forward to a finish.

“And then whatever it takes. It could be a jiu-jitsu, it could be submission, could be a knockout, it could be a TKO or whatever it is. I’m looking forward to finishing Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287.” DM

Alex Pereira knocks down Israel Adesanya

Alex Pereira knocks down Israel Adesanya during the 5th round on his way toward winning their middleweight fight at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden on 12 November, 2022 in New York City. (Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

UFC 287 – Main card

– Main event: Middleweight championship: Alex Pereira v Israel Adesanya

– Welterweight: Gilbert Burns v Jorge Masvidal

– Bantamweight: Rob Font v Adrian Yanez

– Welterweight: Kevin Holland v Santiago Ponzinibbio

– Bantamweight: Raul Rosas Jr v Christian Rodriguez

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