Israel Adesanya lost his belt to Alex Pereira at UFC 281, in a bout that looked eerily similar to their second kickboxing match. Adesanya hurt him on multiple occasions and was ahead on the scorecards, before Pereira pulled off another incredible comeback in the final round.
“F—king crazy end. Similar to the last time. Same story. It’s crazy,” Adesanya said on the post-fight press conference. “He’s durable and he recovers well. Even in the fifth round, I knew he was going to come strong because he was down. Same thing as last time again. It’s another great story for him, but it’s not over. This is still war.”
Adesanya said he was “fine” and “lucid” at the stoppage, but he accepted the loss well and isn’t going to complain about the finish.
“No (the stoppage wasn’t bad). I talked to my coaches, and I trust them,” he said. “My ego would say ‘at least let me go out on my shield’ but I don’t think I would’ve gone out.”
The now former champion went on to say that it was the calf kicks that mainly led to his loss.
“My leg. My leg happened. He got calf kicks on and invested well,” Adesanya said about the defeat.
“He hit my peroneal nerve. So that’s why my footwork was compromised,” he said. “Even when I tripped and went backwards, I had to do the rolie polie. I just tripped over, it’s not like me. Kudos to him for investing in those calf kicks, because it cost me.
“I’m okay. It was just my leg. My leg gave way, and it was really annoying. But again, kudos to him for investing in those. I did the same thing to him. His leg is f—ked, but he just got me better,” he said. “It was hard for me to attack with my wrestling, because I was compromised.”
Adesanya had his moments and seemed to be close to a finish at multiple points, but he refused to deal in any “shoulda woulda coulda” and congratulated his rival on yet another victory over him.
“It doesn’t matter. He is the new champion and congrats to him. He did it again.”
The loss ends Adesanya’s incredible four-year run as middleweight champion, which saw him win seven title fights and basically clean out the division until Pereira came along.
The new champion in Pereira is now 3-0 against Adesanya, with two of those happening in kickboxing.