UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will defend his title against Alex Pereira, a man known for having “the touch of death.”
The UFC has found the headlining fight for its long-awaited return to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12 in New York, Adesanya announced on ESPN MMA’s SportsCenter on Friday. He will defend his belt against a former opponent he has fought twice before, albeit in a different sport.
With just three appearances under the banner, Pereira gets a title shot after a vicious KO win over former fourth-placed middleweight contender Sean Strickland. While going into his bout against Strickland unranked, Pereira broke into the top five rankings after the win.
The former two-part Glory champion has entered the ring twice in kickboxing opposite Adesanya. He won both matches, the first being won by decision in 2016 and the second by KO a year later. As the only man to bring Adesanya cold to the silver screen, his arrival in the promotion had fans screaming for the highly anticipated matchup.
UFC confirmed the booking, tweet: “As announced on @Sport Centerwe have a 𝑴𝑨𝑺𝑺𝑰𝑽𝑬 main event set for MSG @Stylebender vs Alex Pereira is confirmed #UFC281!“
“Stylebender” pulled off a successful title defense against Jared Cannonier during UFC 276’s International Fight Week card. After a comfortable win on the judges’ scorecards, Adesanya Pereira exclaimed with a nod from the Disney animated children’s film Frozen.
Adesanya shared his reaction to the news online, tweet: “#UFC281 “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord.” Brooooo I said the same thing!! This ends here. Kill or be killed.”
He remains confident he will avenge the losses and looks forward to fighting an opponent who will try to attack him rather than being cautious and remaining defensive like recent challengers he has faced.
In an appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, Pereira gave his answer to Adesanya’s call.
“Look, number one, he spent a childhood watching cartoons,” he said (ht Sportskeeda). “I spent my childhood working in a tire shop trying to make money and give my family a better life. I haven’t seen those cartoons.”
Pereira slammed Adesanya for his garbage talk about cannoniers ahead of the event.
“He fooled people,” he added. “He raises expectations like he said he was going to make the last fight [against] Cannonier just looks and then puts on a show, talks a lot and goes there with a crap.
In another interview with Combate, Pereira explained that Adesanya didn’t think he would reach the position he’s in, and at least not anytime soon.
“Adesanya is surprised that I am here today. There’s a video from about two years ago where he said I was in a bar and I was saying to my friends something like, ‘Do you see that guy on TV? The UFC Champion. I’ve hit him twice already.
“He never thought I would be here today and not so soon. Now look at this. The world kept spinning and I’ll fight him in my next fight.”