‘I run towards the fire’: Israel Adesanya explains decision to fight Alex Pereira at UFC 281

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Israel Adesanya is now set to face the man who has defeated him twice in kickboxing, but the UFC middleweight champion is looking forward to their third pairing inside the octagon.

Alex Pereira is just three fights into his UFC career, with a total of seven professional MMA bouts. While his debut finish of Andreas Michailidis and his spectacular knockout of Sean Strickland at UFC 276 were impressive, any other fighter would most likely have more work to do before earning a shot at the title. However, when one holds two wins over the current champion, and the division is essentially cleared out, things can happen quickly.

Adesanya (23-1 MMA, 12-1 UFC) has a decision and a knockout loss against Pereira (6-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in kickboxing. It’s a big reason why many were excited to see Pereira enter the UFC.

After just three undefeated UFC appearances from Pereira, the third meeting will take place under the bright lights of the storied Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 12.

But why did Adesanya choose to face him now?

“I’ve always picked the guy no one wants to fight,” Adesanya said during an interview on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “The guy everyone runs away from, I run towards. So yeah, I run towards the fire, and this is no different.

“After he beat me in Brazil, I never had any plans of trying to get revenge or anything like that because I don’t hold on to things, I let go of things. But again, I’m telling you, the universe has presented this to me and it’s right there. The perfect alley-oop, and I’m going to slam this b*tch.”

Adesanya has defeated everyone in the top five of the USA TODAY SPORTS/MMA Junkie middleweight rankings, which leaves No.6 Pereira as the next man in line for his shot.

With five title defenses (six, if you ask him) in his back pocket, Adesanya, will face a highly skilled striker who will be willing to exchange on the feet. That is a key element he believes has been missing from recent opponents, which he believes will create excitement for the fans.

“I’m really excited to have someone finally who after the first round or the second round, they realize they can’t do sh*t and just want to be defensive,” Adesanya said. “I’m excited to have someone who’s going to attack me. Who’s going to try to finish me. He’s done it before in the past in kickboxing.

“So for me, it’s like is he going to get knocked out, or am I going to get knocked out? So that’s why you have to tune in and find out.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie