UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya's next title defense will be against one of the promotion's fastest rising stars. And a familiar face.
Adesanya will face challenger Alex Pereira at UFC 281 on Nov. 12, the UFC announced on Friday. The event will be at Madison Square Garden in New York, making it Adesanya's second fight at the arena.
— UFC (@ufc) August 5, 2022
Adesanya, who currently holds a 23-1 MMA record, is coming off a lackluster win over challenger Jared Cannonier at UFC 276 last month. It wasn't so much that Adesanya was near defeat at any point, the fight itself was simply low on action (Adesanya at least provided entertainment with his Undertaker-inspired walkout).
Pereira was widely assumed to be Adesanya's next challenger, thanks to both his current winning streak and his history with the champion.
Alex Pereira is a UFC rising star, and has beaten Israel Adesanya before
A couple hours before Adesanya's Cannonier win, Periera defeated Sean Strickland, then ranked fourth in the UFC middleweight rankings, via a wild first-round knockout. Pereira entered MMA after a legendary kickboxing career, the same sport where Adesanya got his start.
Pereira faced Adesanya twice as a kickboxer and defeated him twice, once via unanimous decision and once third-round knockout. You can imagine highlights from those fights will be frequently seen in the run-up to UFC 281.
The two didn't wait for the fight to start trading jabs about their recent fights and kickboxing history.
Pereira has ascended quickly since joining the UFC, winning four straight fights in impressive fashion. Him getting a title shot this early is as much a statement of Adesanya's dominance, though, as the champion has already beaten every other fighter in the top 6 of the UFC middleweight rankings.
Adesanya's lone loss as a mixed martial artists remains his ill-fated challenge for the UFC light heavyweight title against then-champ Jan Blachowicz. Since capturing the middleweight crown against Robert Whittaker, Adesanaya has defended his belt against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa, Marvin Vettori, Whittaker again and Cannonier.