SI’s MMA Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes runs every Monday.
Israel Adesanya lost twice to Alex Pereira in kickboxing. In their first MMA bout last November, Pereira won by TKO, taking Adesanya’s coveted middleweight title. Yet a shot at redemption exists, as Adesanya will get another go at Pereira in two weeks at UFC 287.
“It’s going to be different,” says Adesanya. “I can’t reveal the work I’ve put in, but I’ll let it be known on the night of the fight that I’m the best. I’ll say less and do more.”
Pereira and his team have had fun at Adesanya’s expense on social media. While it is never smart to poke and prod an opponent, there are benefits to the strategy—Pereira has used Adesanya’s name to introduce himself to a global audience in MMA. The approach has certainly caught Adesanya’s attention, even if he thinks very little of Pereira’s attempt at humor.
“It shows his character and it shows his people’s character,” says Adesanya. “My family never spoke of him the way his family speaks of me. We were raised differently.
“I’m not playing these games for likes. The fight is already sold. It’s going to be one of the greatest combat sport fights of all time.”
Adesanya is measured in his comments, knowing the stakes are especially high. If Adesanya (23–2) wins, he’ll further cement his legacy by overcoming his archival and becoming a two-time UFC champion. But if Adesanya loses, he could be forced to win a couple of bouts in the division before getting a shot at the belt—perhaps then vacant if Pereira moves to light heavyweight—and he will be stuck with all his losses to Pereira forever hovering over him.
For all Adesanya’s success, one area he lacked was a signature rival. That hasn’t been the case since Pereira’s arrival to the UFC.
“He’s not what I wanted,” says Adesanya. “But he is what I needed.”
Despite an active schedule, Adesanya is keeping time for his passions. His entrepreneurial spirit has flourished over the past few months, particularly his partnership with MYPRO. Working together, Adesanya is introducing a limited-edition, Last Stylebender–inspired bundle to the world.
“MYPRO, they put work in, kept checking with me, and it all worked out,” says Adesanya. “The way they treated me, it’s next level.”
Adesanya collaborated with MYPRO to develop two protein flavors—boost dragon punch and fried banana—and was involved in the design of his new shaker.
“We sat and had a look at everything—the color scheme, the shaker, the taste and flavor,” says Adesanya. “My favorite is the fried banana flavor. It reminds me of fried plantains, and that resonates with my culture and where I grew up.
“They make a really delicious, dope product. I’d even give a little to Pereira. But only just a scoop.”
No matter the topic, even when Adesanya is focused on someone or something else, Pereira’s name seemingly finds a way into the discussion. That will continue be the case for the next two weeks, and it will linger even longer if Pereira beats him again.
Adesanya is in a new position. A longtime favorite, he is now the challenger, seeking to overcome a seemingly unstoppable force. It is as if the script flipped, as this was the exact same narrative other fighters faced when Adesanya was dominating the division.
The only way Adesanya can finally conquer Pereira is to take a different approach in his training, which he vows he has done. He is using a new method—one he describes as “madness”—and he believes it will help solve Pereira.
“I’m not trying to intimidate him,” says Adesanya. “That’s a waste of energy. You can’t. And he can’t intimidate me.
“I have nothing to lose. I’m coming in with everything.”
Cory Sandhagen dominates bout against Chito Vera
Sandhagen put forth a sensational showing Saturday, defeating Vera by split decision.
The fact that the decision was not unanimous is absurd. Sandhagen dominated the first two rounds, then held a slight advantage in rounds three, four and five. Yet Vera was awarded one of the scorecards, 48–47. Sandhagen looked momentarily deflated upon hearing he lost judge Joel Ojeda’s scorecard, but the next two—Sal D’Amato scored the fight 50–45, and Chris Lee scored it 49–46, both in favor of Sandhagen—were far more indicative of how the fight unfolded.
With the victory, Sandhagen puts himself in position to fight Merab Dvalishvili. Where that would leave Sean O’Malley is a valid question, but the dominant performance against Vera was critical for Sandhagen to keep his title hopes alive.
And that was one of the best showings of his career.
Sandhagen’s ability to change stances and punch himself into position caused endless problems for Vera. He also capitalized upon Vera’s tendency to start slow while stalking his opponent, which led to two massive rounds for Sandhagen to open the affair. After the first two rounds, Vera was in need of a Hail Mary knockout, which never materialized.
With much uncertainty surrounding the upcoming bantamweight bout pitting Aljamain Sterling against Henry Cejudo, Sandhagen did himself a great favor by winning this bout.
Gilbert Burns could be next in line for Leon Edwards—or Colby Covington
All indications are that Covington will get the next shot at Edwards for the UFC welterweight championship.
But what happens if Burns wins in dominant fashion against Jorge Masvidal at UFC 287?
UFC President Dana White made it clear that Covington is next for Edwards, though a fight contract for the welterweight title has yet to be signed. Per sources, Edwards has made it clear that he does not believe Covington should be his next challenger, insisting Covington needs at least one more victory before putting himself back in a title bout. And that is exactly what Edwards should say: It is a stance that should put him in position for a bigger guaranteed payday when they inevitably do clash. Covington, who will be a serious challenge for Edwards, wants the bout to take place in July during International Fight Week. But that feels like it would be a kiss of death for Edwards, who is much more likely to accept a bout in the fall, especially considering he just defended the belt against Kamaru Usman.
If Masvidal wins at 287, then Burns’s title chances will disappear. Barring a loss of his own, that would make Belal Muhammad next in line for a title shot. But if Burns wins, that will make three wins in his past four fights, with his only loss during that stretch coming against Khamzat Chimaev in an extremely close contest.
A win by Burns at 287 would elevate him to the upper echelon of the welterweight division. Even if he won’t get the next title shot, a victory puts Burns next in line.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com . Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.