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‘Beating him, that’s what matters’ - Israel Adesanya says ‘f-ck the belt’ ahead of Alex Pereira fight

The ‘Last Stylebender’ has bigger things on his mind than defending his UFC title in Madison Square Garden on November 12th.

Alex Pereira in the Octagon following his KO victory over Sean Strickland.
Alex Pereira in the Octagon following his KO victory over Sean Strickland.
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

The core narrative ahead of Alex Pereira’s upcoming challenge to the UFC middleweight title is entirely wrapped up in history. The Brazilian, much like Israel Adesanya not long before him, has streaked his way to the top of the division behind a series of highlight filled performances. In the case of ‘Poatan’, however, his title hopes have been expedited as well by the fact that he has two wins in the kickboxing ring over the New Zealand-based champ.

Both men have made their reputations as dangerous, exciting strikers. But, head-to-head, Pereira has been the man getting his hand raised.

It’s under those circumstances, then, that Adesanya approaches UFC 281 and the 6th defense of his belt. In a recent interview released on his YouTube channel, the City Kickboxing standout explained that avenging those losses is far more meaningful a motivator for him than keeping his piece of championship hardware.

“Beating him, that’s what matters,” Adesanya explained (transcript via MMA Junkie). “Like, the belt? F-ck the belt. Just beating him, a killer like him, that’s what matters.”

“We’ve dusted that off, we’ve cut it off, and I can see what I did wrong,” Adesanya added, speaking of his previous KO loss to Pereira in 2017. “So, it’s not gonna be like last time. This is a different fighter you’re facing, and now I’ve become another fighter. I’ve re-birthed myself. I’ve re-birthed it, and I just feel like I want to have fun. That’s the goal. But this fight, I’m gonna have fun. That’s the ultimate goal. And when I have fun, I’m the best in the world.”

For his part, Pereira seems intent on keeping Adesanya at close range where he can more easily stifle the champ’s kicking attack and counter with big hooks. As far as he’s concerned, the ‘Last Stylebender’ is on his way toward another KO loss. “He won’t make it five rounds,” Pereira said of the matchup back in August.

UFC 281 goes down November 12th at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. Alongside the middleweight main event, the card is expected to feature a women’s strawweight title fight between current champ Carla Esparza and former belt holder Weili Zhang.