Adesanya was stopped by rival Pereira in the main event to lose his middleweight title at Madison Square Garden in New York. Adesanya (23-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC), who was up 39-37 on the judges’ scorecards entering the fifth round, lost his title after getting caught by Pereira (7-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) and taking additional punches, all while standing against the fence.
Adesanya stumbled to the canvas but got back to his feet as Pereira continued to pummel him. Adesanya wasn’t dropped a second time, but the damage taken was enough for referee Marc Goddard to intervene and stop the fight. Adesanya disagreed with the stoppage then, and two days later still stood by his initial assessment.
“You see when I get up, I’m fine, because I was lucid,” Adesanya said Monday on “The MMA Hour.” “I didn’t get rocked-rocked. So I got hit against the fence, and my thought was, ‘Escape laterally left or right.’ And then I went right, and as I was going right and as I wasn’t going right, I wasn’t because like I was rocked. It was (because of) my foot.”
Adesanya said that his body language made him look worse than he actually was after taking the initial shot of the fight-ending sequence. The Nigerian blames damage on his leg from Pereira’s kicks on his lack of movement and unstable appearance.
“And then again, you know, the peroneal nerve – it happened to Michael Chandler, Cejudo, our boy Jimmy Crute, it happened to him, as well,” Adesanya said. “So at some point in the fight, I’m trying to move; this is halfway through the second round. It’s like when you’re walking, and the leg just trips, and it drags on the floor accidentally. I was getting that through the fight. And I was like, ‘Is something wrong with my leg?’ Eventually I was like, ‘That thing. That’s the thing that happened to my leg.’ I never had that happen to me in a fight before ever, but I knew what it was. …
“So I went lateral, lateral, and I tripped and looked bad, so I think the referee was like, ‘Two big shots, and he wobbles. Oh sh*t.’ (But) it wasn’t from the shots, I promise you. There’s no reason for me to lie. It was from the leg, which he caused the damage.”
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Adesanya recalls the end of the fight perfectly and said he was in no way out of consciousness. His strategy was to see out Pereira’s attack and then look for the takedown once the Brazilian had expended energy.
“And then I’m like, ‘OK, stand there, stand there, don’t move anymore. Let him gas out.’ So I was waiting for him to take big shots. So I put my head down, I could see his arms and his legs. That’s all I need to look at. I know where his head is. So I’m just there moving, moving. But to the referee after two big shots, and then I wobble, and I’m standing there looking like that, he is going to be like, ‘Oh sh*t, nah.’ He’s being safe. So when he jumped in, I’m like, ‘I’m fine. Oh, f*ck.’ I literally was disappointed. I was waiting for him to gas out, so I can do my work. I was going to take him down and beat him up again.”
Adesanya has no ill feelings toward Goddard and understands his job as a referee is difficult. However, he’s surprised that Goddard stopped the fight when he did, considering he also worked Adesanya’s interim title fight against Kelvin Gastelum in 2019, which was a war that won Fight of the Year.
“You reffed the Gastelum fight; you’ve seen where I can go to,” Adesanya said. “You should have that kind of faith in me. And also, you gave Kelvin Gastelum every chance after he got dropped, the most in any title fight in UFC history. So I didn’t get dropped. Yeah, I got wobbled, but I wobbled because of my leg.”
Regardless, Adesnaya is proud of his performance and expects a rematch with Pereira down the line.
“I think I will enjoy this fight watching it back,” Adesanya said. “I showed different facets of my game. It was a back-and-forth war. It was a good contest, you know. A crazy contest I was winning.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.