Dana White on booking Alex Pereira vs. Israel Adesanya in immediate rematch: ‘I wouldn’t rule it out’

Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Alex Pereira is technically 3-0 against Israel Adesanya after an incredible comeback win to claim the middleweight title in the UFC 281 main event. But it appears the rivalry is far from finished.

Following a pair of wins over Adesanya in kickboxing, Pereira delivered a stunning standing knockout in their first MMA meeting. Pereira fought through plenty of adversity – he was down on the scorecards heading into the fifth – before his coaches urged him to go for the knockout.

Pereira obviously listened as he came after Adesanya with everything left in his arsenal until he trapped the now former UFC middleweight champion against the cage and unleashed a barrage of punches to stop the fight. The knockout ended Adesanya’s reign atop the 185-pound division, but it’s entirely possible that he’ll get a chance to avenge the loss sooner rather than later.

“I wouldn’t rule it out,” UFC President Dana White said when asked about an immediate rematch between Adesanya and Pereira.

Beyond the fact that Adesanya was a five-time defending champion heading into Saturday night, White also acknowledged “The Last Stylebender” was on his way to a win until Pereira managed to pull off the upset.

That all adds up to Adesanya likely doing enough already to deserve the rematch with Pereira.

“You’ve got to show Israel [respect],” White said. “First of all, I was saying that this week and it’s the absolute truth, Israel Adesanya didn’t flinch about taking this fight. He likes to fight all the time. He took this fight. He wanted this fight. A lot of people talk publicly and it’s a whole different story behind the scenes. That guy’s an absolute stud. Always wants to stay active and a fight that most guys would stall, give me more time, this, that. He dove right into this fight.

“His only loss was when he tried to move up in weight to 205. You’ve got to respect him as a champ and what he’s done.”

White also praised Adesanya for his attitude about the matchup, especially after he had previously fallen to Pereira including the vicious knockout he suffered in their last encounter in GLORY back in 2017.

Despite all that, Adesanya proved he was more than ready for the rematch and nearly had Pereira beaten – until he didn’t.

“Israel was absolutely confident going into this fight, too,” White said. “Never once did he look like he was scared of this guy or worried about it. He was picking him apart.

“I think going into that fourth round, if he was a little bit more aggressive in that fourth round, who knows what could have happened. But when you start getting into the fourth, you’re winning the fight and then you get to the fifth and basically all you’ve got to do is stay away from him in the fifth and you’re winning the fight. Sometimes that strategy doesn’t work out.”

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