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Israel Adesanya: ‘One-dimensional’ Alex Pereira isn’t my toughest challenge

Israel Adesanya glad to face ‘early on in this game ‘ Alex Pereira at UFC 281.

“There’s levels to this,” is an oft-repeated phrase in MMA circles. It also seems to be the reason that UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya doesn’t see the man he faces in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 281 pay-per-view card, Alex Pereira, as his equal.

“No, I don’t think [he presents the toughest challenge],” Adesanya told ESPN. “He’s very one-dimensional. He’s early on in this game as well so I’m even glad to get him now. I don’t know who he has in his corner. I know he has Glover [Teixeira] and his boxing coach. I don’t know what their background is, I don’t really mind, I just worry about me. I definitely know he’s not as smart as me in the cage. I know that for a fact.”

The 35-year-old Pereira has been a full-time MMA competitor for a little more than a year. The Brazilian striker retired from kickboxing in September 2021. He then made his UFC debut on November 6, 2021. Pereira is 6-1 overall in MMA. He is 3-0 in the UFC and coming off his first win over a ranked opponent, a July knockout of Sean Strickland.

By contrast, Adesanya had a 21-1 MMA record by the time Pereira, who has two kickboxing victories over “The Last Stylebender,” made his UFC debut. That record included three UFC middleweight title defenses. Adesanya has added two more defenses of his UFC crown to his overall record (23-1) since Pereira began fighting under the UFC banner. Adesanya is coming off a July decision victory over Jared Cannonier.

Adesanya’s coach, Eugene Bareman of City Kickboxing, believes the main reason Pereira is competing against his fighter at UFC 281 is the shared non-MMA history between the two fighters.

“There’s no way he gets a title shot if there wasn’t history there; it’s ridiculous,” said Bareman. “It’s just ridiculous that someone would get a title shot [so quickly]. There’s history with Israel, and the story and the UFC, hate it or love it, Dana has to promote fights. That’s one thing they do really well. They picked up this history, picked up this would be a great fight that’s going to bring a lot of eyes, and strategically push Alex so he could fight for the title.”

UFC 281 takes place on Saturday, November 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPNews and early prelims on ESPN+.

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Official UFC 281 Fight Poster

LIVE STREAM UFC 281 PPV ON ESPN+ HERE!

BLOCKBUSTER TWO TITLE-FIGHT SHOWDOWN! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to MSG (Madison Square Garden) in NYC, NY, on Sat. NOV. 12, 2022, with a must-see thriller that will see perennial fan favorite, No. 1 ranked Israel ‘The Last Stylebender’ Adesanya (23-1), battle No. 3 division ranked contender, Alex ‘Poatan’ Pereira (6-1), for the UFC Middleweight Championship. Meanwhile, in UFC 281’s pay-per-view (PPV) co-main event, we get the current and two-time UFC Strawweight Champion, Carla ‘The Cookie Monster’ Esparza (19-6), defending her title opposite Zhang Weili (22-3). These bouts will be preceded by an exciting Lightweight barnburner between Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier and ‘Iron’ Michael Chandler, in a must-see barnburner.

Don’t miss a single second of EPIC face-punching action!