UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira has a few thoughts for fans and pundits who feel the former kickboxing champion may be just a bit too one-dimensional to keep his belt for long.
After spending most of his amateur and professional career in kickboxing, Pereira transitioned to mixed martial arts. Within two years, ‘Po Atan’ joined the UFC, dispatched three opponents and earned his first championship opportunity. At the time, the UFC middleweight division was reigned by Israel Adesanya, a familiar foe from their time shared in the ring.
Despite losing to Pereira twice, Adesanya warned his opponent that their fight at UFC 281 this past November would be different. This time around, the ‘Last Stylebender’ had added a new layer to his game, securing the first-ever takedown of his UFC career. And when they got to the ground, Adesanya dominated Pereira.
Though he went on to defeat Adesanya by fifth-round TKO, Pereira was targeted immediately by those who were salivating after seeing his performance on the ground. In a recent interview with Brett Okamoto of ESPN, the Brazilian responded to his perceived deficiency in wrestling.
“If you recall [my] grappling game, [I’ve] been training with such high-caliber guys,” said Pereira. “The people who talk about that are people that have never grappled [with me], people that have never trained [with] me. All the guys that come in and roll with [me], grapple, do some MMA, they leave very surprised. They say, ‘Man, I didn’t know he could grapple that.’ But like I said, [I’m] not trying to prove nothing to nobody. [I’m] just doing [my] thing, but stay tuned for the future.
“People say that [I] cannot grapple, but I don’t think almost nobody could be able to put Israel down with a takedown,” continued Pereira. “I took him down, so what’s going on?”
Pereira and Adesanya are expected to rematch at UFC 287, the upcoming pay-per-view event scheduled for April 8 at the Miami-Dade Arena in Miami, FL.
About the author: Kristen King is a writer for Bloody Elbow. She has covered combat sports since 2016. (full bio)