NEW YORK – Israel Adesanya doesn’t look at the odds, but they happened to scroll across his smartphone screen Tuesday night.
“I like (the pressure) on me,” Adesanya told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a UFC 281 pre-fight news conference Wednesday. “I like it on me in this one. I saw last night, I’m like, ‘Why am I the favorite in this on the betting odds?’ I never check them but I just happened to see something on Instagram and I was like, ‘How the f*ck am I the favorite?’ I feel like we should change that. How do we change that or something, fake an injury? I don’t know. We’ll see. I think we should bet on him this fight. Yeah, we’ll just see what happens.”
While he didn’t specifically say he thought the odds are wrong, nor did he give further reasoning for his verbalized surprise, Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) previously criticized the public perception of his took kickboxing bouts vs. Alex Pereira (6-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), his UFC opponent for Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
“You can see the faces of myself and himself once his hand got raised,” Adesanya said of the fight first. “It was a close fight, sure. But if you’re scoring the fight according to the criteria of kickboxing, I was doing work. I watched the highlights as well. … I seen the shots I was hitting him with back then but he was just able to eat them. I was a skinny boy, skinny clown back then. But I can find those same angles on him. My game is a lot different. My striking has always been better suited for MMA. I’ve said that from the jump. I’m just really good at striking that I dominated in kickboxing, but my striking has always been better suited for MMA. Yeah, again. We’ll see.”
As Adesanya alluded to in his reflection of battles past, things have changed in his estimation, but not just for him. He tipped the cap to Pereira for improvement as well. The most recent bout is five years removed, after all.
“He’s a guy I think learns fast,” Adesanya said of Pereira. “He possesses very good traits that he brings to MMA as well. His frame is very good for MMA, like mine. We’re pretty much the same size. He’s just stacked. … I look forward to even being hopefully in the clinch with him, just so he can feel me a little bit.
Every fight is one Adesanya wants to win. That’s a given. But with Pereira and their history, this one is special. This one stacks up above the rest due to past history for him – and he plans on finally avenging the ghosts of yesteryears.
“Just the fact that we have that history, I feel like if there’s any fight (I need to win, it’s this),” Adesanya said. “Every other fight was important to me, the Whittaker fight Part 1, Brunson, Tavares, Costa, whatever. But this fight I feel like when I’m standing across from him each round, I just know. I just see it. I’m getting the vibes. I can just see it. This is the one I have to win.”
“… Crush your enemies totally. If you leave any sign of life, they’ll come back for revenge. You should’ve killed me in Brazil. Now it’s my time and I’ll crush him totally – or maybe I’ll just jab and leg kick him. We’ll see.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.