Sunday, December 4, 2022

Israel Adesanya: With A Different Ref, I’d Still Be Champion

Israel Adesanya believes he was the victim of an early stoppage at UFC 281 tonight.

The Nigerian-New Zealander, so dominant for so long as middleweight champ, lost via TKO to Alex Pereira in a massive upset. The highly technical battle saw Adesanya take the advantage early, almost putting Pereira away at the end of the first round, before dominating the next few.

But in the final round, Pereira staged a stunning come-from-behind win by unloading on Israel against the fence, causing him to slump partially onto the canvas and forcing the referee to step in and declare a TKO. It was Adesanya’s first loss at middleweight and just the second of his career, ending his championship reign that began in late 2019.

Adesanya Pereira UFC 281

Adesanya Blasts Referee For Early Stoppage

Speaking at the UFC 281 post-fight press conference, Israel was philosophical about losing his middleweight crown to the man who defeated him twice as a kickboxer and lamented what he believed was an early stoppage.

“I’m grateful,” said Adesanya. “I’m grateful. What a life. What a moment. Fuckin’ crazy ending. Like, similar to the last time, same story. It’s crazy. But yeah, I was fine. The first thing I said to the ref was I was fine. ‘Cause I was still lucid, I was in there, but shit happens.”

When asked if he wasn’t happy with the stoppage, Adesanya affirmed that he was in fact fully aware of what was going on when the ref stepped in to call the fight.

“Nah, I talked to my coaches and I trust them,” said Israel. “I trust them. But I was fine. I could see everything happening. My eyes might have rolled back a little bit, but I was lucid.”

Israel Adesanya, Alex Pereira
Image Credit: Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Prior to UFC 281, Adesanya had requested that Steve Mazzagatti adjudicate his fight with Pereira, given the veteran referee’s tendency for stepping in only at the very last moment. And he rued the fact that the UFC didn’t honor that request.

“Uh, fuck,” said Israel. “My ego would say ‘At least let me go out on my shield.’ But I don’t think I would’ve gone out because I was still there. I’ve seen worse stoppages. Fuckin’ bring back Steve Mazzagatti. Bring back Steve Mazzagatti. I would have been fine. He might have won that round but I’d still be champion.”

Adesanya Keen On Rematch With Pereira

Having defended his middleweight title five times since 2019, becoming the most dominant champ since Anderson Silva, it seems “Stylebender” will likely earn an instant rematch with Pereira. And now boasting three losses to the Brazilian across two sports, Israel is super keen for it to happen.

“Of course. Of course,” said Adesanya when asked if he wants a rematch. “Come on, man. I’ve been doing this — this is my third fight in 10 months. Every time I fight, I risk losing what you guys deem as the prestigious — which it is — the belt and all that shit. But nah, I put it on the line because I’m not trying to fight once and chill, do my lap around, and parade as a champion and not risk so much. So yeah, I put it on the line, and this is what happens. Again, dare to be great. And I am.”

What’s your take on Israel Adesanya believing he was the victim of an early stoppage?

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