Israel Adesanya before UFC 281: Kickboxing losses to Alex Pereira were ‘me not staying true to my style’

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya doesn’t rate Alex Pereira’s MMA career too highly just yet.

That’s because Pereira has competed just seven times as a professional and three times in the octagon. But after Pereira knocked out streaking contender Sean Strickland in the first round at UFC 276, it was enough to earn him a shot at Adesanya’s title in Saturday’s UFC 281 main event at Madison Square Garden in New York.

“I don’t know about his MMA career. I never watched until he got in the UFC,” Adesanya said on his YouTube channel. “Like a four – four or five (out of 10). I think that last one brought it to a five.”

Pereira (6-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) defeated Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) twice in kickboxing, once by knockout. Their first fight was a close decision. Adesanya had Pereira hurt against the ropes to force an 8-second count in their rematch before Pereira rallied to knock him out in Round 3.

“In that moment, I got too hungry and then I blew my load a little bit,” Adesanya said. “In the third round, he did his work, and I’ve given him thumbs up for that. He came in ready, walking me down, throwing, throwing, and then went boom, caught me, and that was all she wrote.”

He continued, “That was me not staying true to my style. I know how to touch this guy bad. I know how to vary my attacks, and I know how to fight properly. I might just jab and leg kick him (laughs).”

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Adesanya thinks Pereira was saved by the eight-second count when he was rocked in their rematch. Now that their rubber match is taking place in MMA, Adesanya hopes to inflict as much damage as possible.

Adesanya jokingly asked the UFC to bring back referee Steve Mazzagatti, who was known to let fights go on for too long.

“That last fight we had, I was touching him, I had him rocked,” Adesanya said. “There’s no referee to save – Dana, bring back Steve Mazzagatti. Bring back Steve Mazzagatti to ref my fight, because I want to hear ‘fight back’ as I’m punching him in the face like 50 times. I want to hear ‘Fight back, you need to move Alex, you need to move, fight back, now hook him up.’ I wanna hear that like 50 times before they drag me off of him.”

UFC 281 takes place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 281.

Adesanya vs. Pereira 3: Fight of the Night? - Powered By PickUp

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie