A rivalry started in kickboxing will continue in the UFC.
Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will take on former GLORY kickboxing champion Alex Pereira in the main event of UFC 281 on November 12th at Madison Square Garden in New York. The announcement was made on ESPN’s Friday afternoon edition of SportsCenter.
Adesanya (23-1) has yet to lose in MMA’s middleweight division, with his one defeat coming up at light heavyweight against then-champion Jan Blachowicz. ‘The Last Stylebender’ won UFC gold with a thorough demolishing of Robert Whittaker in late 2019, and he has since made five successful defenses against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, Whittaker in a much closer rematch, and most recently Jared Cannonier at UFC 276.
Pereira (6-1) lost his MMA debut in 2015, won a couple of fights in 2016, then stuck with kickboxing until making the switch back to MMA in 2020. He earned a UFC contract after a devastating KO of Thomas Powell at LFA 95, and it’s taken the Brazilian just three appearances inside the Octagon to earn a title shot. ‘Poatan’ wiped out Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee, then took a hard-fought decision over Bruno Silva, and established himself as a true title threat after quickly knocking out Sean Strickland.
These two, of course, have a history in kickboxing. Pereira won a debatable decision over Adesanya in 2016, then knocked out Adesanya in the third round of their rematch with his vaunted left hook. Both matchups occurred under the Glory of Heroes promotion, but the trilogy will obviously be in the UFC with Adesanya’s title on the line.
UFC 281 takes place on the 29th anniversary of the first very UFC show, and six years removed from the very first UFC card at Madison Square Garden.