Israel Adesanya is making waves in the UFC, knocking out Derek Brunson at UFC 230 to improve to 4-0 inside the Octagon. Many see him as a future title contender in the middleweight division.
Alex Pereira, the only man to ever finish him in a ring, is looking to go after “The Last Stylebender”.
Pereira, the current Glory middleweight champion, is 39-6 as a kickboxer. Two of those victories came against Adesanya. The first time they met, in May 2016, the Brazilian won a decision in China. “The Last Stylebender” and “Poatan” rematched 10 months later in Brazil, and Pereira knocked him out with a brutal left hand to the jaw.
“Adesanya kept saying he didn’t lose the first fight, he didn’t accept the loss,” Pereira tells MMA Fighting. “The rematch, the first round was back and forth. The second round, he connected a good hand that rocked me. I was getting beat for two minutes, but my body was resting. Not that I wanted to, he was imposing his will, but my body was resting and he was getting tired. He put a lot of pressure but couldn’t drop me.
“We went to the third round and he was tired. He was winning the fight, but I told my corners I was going to knock him out. It wasn’t luck, I knew I would knock him out. I moved straight forward and used the straight right and left cross, good weapons I have. It wasn’t luck. It landed on his chin and he couldn’t take it. He had a few rough days after that.”
Months after losing to Pereira a second time in kickboxing, Adesanya improved to 10-0 in MMA with a win over Melvin Guillard. He stopped Stu Dare shortly after that, signing with the UFC in early 2017.
“It’s complicated for any tough MMA fighter to fight Adesanya because he’s really good,” Pereira says. “His distance and defense are his differential. Other fighters don’t have a defense that good. Adesanya is very precise, he just moves his head a few inches to escape from strikes and he’s already back in range to attack again.”
The Glory champion is 31 years of age, and says he has no bouts left on his contract with the kickboxing company. Pereira is still under contract with the promotion until April 2019, he says, but is hoping to get released to pursue a career in mixed martial arts.
“I’ve received two offers from big MMA promotions and we’re analyzing them,” Pereira says. “I want to go to MMA. I don’t know where I’m going, but if Glory doesn’t let me go, I’ll wait until my contract is over.”
Pereira competed three times in MMA already, all of them under the Jungle Fight banner in Brazil. “Poatan” made his debut in 2015, submitted in the third round by Quemuel Ottoni in a fight he says he was trying to prove a point by going after a submission finish himself. Pereira went back to the cage in 2016 and beat both of his opponents by knockout.
Shortly after defending his Glory belt with a knockout over Yousri Belgaroui in July, Pereira says he agreed to return to MMA to face Diego Henrique da Silva at Contender Series Brazil in August. However, according to “Poatan”, Glory didn’t allow him to compete on the UFC reality show.
The Brazilian returned to the Glory ring in September, successfully defending his crown against Simon Marcus, and now focuses on re-starting his MMA career. For those who think he’s rushing things up by talking about going to the UFC or facing Adesanya in MMA, he has an answer.
“When I fought Adesanya (in kickboxing), I only had 20 or so fights and he had 80. If I were to think like that, I would have been crazy to fight him, and I beat him twice,” Pereira says. “I’m sure I can do a good job in MMA. I’m not young, of course. To become a complete, well-rounded fighters, it would take me 10 years, but I’m evolving every day I train, and I evolve fast. I’m stronger than (Adesanya). At the weigh-ins, I would tell him ‘if you take me to the ground, I’ll know you’re scared of my hands.’ And I’m no fool on the ground.”
“I want to be known, I want to show everyone that someone who was born and raised in a favela can reach the top, can reach the highest level,” he continues. “I never moved to another country to train and became champion at Glory. That’s great to show that everyone can achieve great things.”