Coach Admits Concern for Israel Adesanya: ‘A Little More Time’

Israel Adesanya & Alex Pereira

Getty Israel Adesanya & Alex Pereira

Former UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is jumping right back into a title fight with Alex Pereira, but “The Last Stylebender’s” coach Eugene Bareman wishes his fighter had taken more time off.

Pereira ended Adesanya’s title reign by fifth-round TKO in November at UFC 281. Well, fast forward five months and the two will go at it again for the 185-pound strap. They’re slated to headline UFC 287 on April 9 in Miami, Florida. The loss to “Poatan” marked Adesanya’s first defeat as a middleweight in mixed martial arts — and his third combat sports loss to the Brazilian as Pereira beat The Last Stylebender twice in kickboxing.

Bareman, the head coach of New Zealand’s City Kickboxing, spoke with Ariel Helwani on MMA Fighting’s “The MMA Hour” last week about the upcoming championship rematch. And although he has full faith in The Last Stylebender, he would’ve had Adesanya sit on the shelf a little longer — if it was up to him.

“If I had a choice, which I quite often don’t, then I would probably have waited longer just to give Israel a little bit more time between a stoppage like that and the next fight,” Bareman said. “Even in an ideal world I would have done what they do in boxing. I would have brought in a couple of guys for Israel to warm up on and then fight [Pereira]. In the UFC, we don’t have that choice and, quite frankly, Israel is 100 percent adamant that he must be the next person to fight Alex Pereira. Beyond all doubt.

“So much so that when they were talking about Pereira fighting—I can’t remember, it was for one particular card, I think they had no main event or they had someone pull out of a main event at the end of last year—so much so that when there was talk that Pereira was going to fight, Israel was like, ‘We’ll fight.’ Before Israel had his surgery and everything, Israel was prepared to take the fight on four to five weeks’ notice if Pereira was willing to take the fight.”

Bareman Would’ve Preferred May or June for Adesanya’s Redemption Fight

Bareman is “okay with the timeline” the UFC has presented his team. But May or June would’ve made the coach “happy.”

“I would have been happy with May, June, but give or take, I’m okay with the timeline that we have,” Bareman said. “Izzy has been training for a while now, so we’re in our usual frame of mind and our usual state. We’re calculating the days as they go by and monitoring the progress and we’re in an OK spot. We’re always in an OK spot this far out. We’re always in a spot where I want more to happen, so I push for more to happen.”

Adesanya Will Headline His 8th PPV in a Row

The Last Stylebender is undoubtedly one of the most successful 185 pounders in UFC history. He notched five title defenses after unifying the belt against Robert Whittaker in 2019. He’s beaten the likes of Whittaker twice, Marin Vettori, Paulo Costa, Yoel Romero, Anderson Silva and Jared Cannonier.

The Last Stylebender boasts a professional MMA record of 23-2, with his only other loss coming to Jan Blachowicz when he vied for the light heavyweight strap in 2021.

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