Adesanya was beaten by Pereira twice during the pair’s kickboxing days, the latter of those two losses coming via knockout. And on Saturday (12 November), Pereira replicated his previous success against the “Last Stylebender”, securing a fifth-round TKO to dethrone the middleweight champion.
The Brazilian, 35, was down on the scorecards when he pulled off the final-round finish, which some observers argued came slightly too soon. Adesanya, 33, was seemingly out of sorts but was still standing against the fence and trying to evade punches when referee Marc Goddard stepped in.
Speaking on The MMA Hour on Monday (14 November), Adesanya said: “I don’t blame the referee. Marc did a good job, but you see it when I get up: I’m fine.
“I was lucid. I didn’t get ‘rocked’ rocked; I got ‘hit’ hit against the fence and my thought was, ‘Escape, laterally, either left or right.’
“I went right and as I was going right. It wasn’t because I was rocked [that I fell partially], it was my foot [...] He hit me with two big shots, lateral move... and then I tripped.
“So, it looked bad,” the Nigerian-born New Zealander continued. “I think the referee was like: ‘Two big shots and he wobbles, oh, s***.’ It wasn’t from the shots, I promise you. There’s no reason for me to lie. It was from the legs, which [Pereira] caused, the damage.”
“So, I was like: ‘Okay, stand there, stand there, just don’t move anymore, let him gas out.’ So, I was waiting for him to take big shots, so I put my head down, I could see his arms and I could see his legs. That’s all I needed to look at; I know where his head is. So, I’m just there moving, moving, moving.
“But to the referee, after two big shots and then I wobble, and I’m standing there looking like that, he’s going to be like: ‘Nah.’ And he’s being safe. So, when he jumped in I’m like: ‘I’m fine. Aw, f***.’
“I was literally just disappointed. I was waiting for him to gas out so I can do my work. I was going to take him down and then beat him up again.”
Adesanya had previously suffered just one loss in mixed martial arts, a points defeat in 2021 while challenging for the UFC light heavyweight title.
Meanwhile, Pereira entered UFC 281 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden with a 6-1 MMA record and just one win against a top-10 UFC fighter.