The UFC has found the headlining bout for its long-awaited return to Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12 in New York, Adesanya announced Friday on ESPN MMA’s “SportsCenter.” He will defend his belt against a former foe, who he’s already fought twice but in a different sport.
With only three outings under the banner, Pereira gets a title shot off the back of a vicious knockout win over the formerly fourth-ranked middleweight contender Sean Strickland. While he went into his bout against Strickland unranked, Pereira broke through into the top five rankings after the win.
The former two-division Glory champion has stepped inside the ring opposite Adesanya on two occasions in kickboxing. He won both outings, with the first coming by decision in 2016 and the second by way of knockout a year later. As the only man to have put Adesanya out cold on the canvas, his arrival into the promotion had fans clamoring for the highly-anticipated matchup.
UFC confirmed the booking, tweeting: “As announced on @SportsCenter, we have a 𝑴𝑨𝑺𝑺𝑰𝑽𝑬 main event set for MSG @Stylebender vs Alex Pereira is confirmed for #UFC281!“
Adesanya Reacts to the UFC 281 Booking
“Stylebender” is coming off a successful title defense over Jared Cannonier during the International Fight Week card of UFC 276. Following a comfortable victory on the judges’ scorecards, Adesanya called out Pereira using a reference from the Disney animated kids movie “Frozen.”
Adesanya shared his reaction to the news online, tweeting: “#UFC281 “Vengeance is mine says the lord.” Brooooo I said the same thing too!! This ends here. Kill or be killed.”
He remains confident he will avenge the losses and is excited to fight an opponent that will look to attack him as opposed to being cautious in their approach and staying defensive like the recent string of challengers he faced.
Pereira Responded to Adesanya’s Callout
In an appearance on “The MMA Hour” with Ariel Helwani, Pereira issued his response to Adesanya’s callout.
“Look, number one, he spent a childhood watching cartoons,” he said (ht Sportskeeda). “I spent my childhood working at a tire shop, trying to make money, and provide for my family for a better life. I didn’t watch those cartoons.”
Pereira bashed Adesanya for his trash talk of Cannonier leading up to the event.
“He’s been fooling the people,” he added. “He creates expectations like he said that he was going to make the last fight [against] Cannonier look easy and then, makes a show, talks a lot, and goes there with a bummer.”
In another interview with Combate, Pereira explained that Adesanya didn’t believe he would get to the position that he’s in, and at the very least, not so quickly.
“Adesanya is surprised that I’m here today. There’s a video from about two years ago where he said I’d be in a bar telling my friends something like ‘Do you see that guy on the TV? The UFC champion. I’ve beaten him twice before’.
“He never believed I’d be here today and not so quickly. Now look at this. The world kept turning and I’m fighting him in my next fight.”