Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira have had a long-standing rivalry across both kickboxing and MMA. Their rivalry will once again come to a head when they face off on Apirl 9th as the main event of UFC 287.
The rivalry started in 2016 when Adesanya, then a professional kickboxer, faced Pereira in a bout under the Glory Kickboxing banner. Pereira knocked Adesanya out with a brutal punch, handing him his second professional loss.
Adesanya later transitioned to MMA and quickly rose to prominence, becoming the UFC middleweight champion. Meanwhile, Pereira continued to compete in kickboxing and also made his MMA debut.
The two faced each other for the UFC Middleweight belt at UFC 281 in November. Pereira was trailing when he rallied and managed to knock out Adesanya via TKO in the 5th round.
The clash between two former kickboxers made many grappling specialists eager to face either of them. Khamzat Chimaev notably expressed his interest immediately after.
Adesanya was a part of Volkanovski’s camp ahead of UFC 284, and he got the chance to spend some time with grappling phenom Craig Jones.
While Adesanya is formally a purple belt under Atos – some question his grappling credentials. Jones spoke affirmatively about Adesanya’s grappling progress and expressed a belief that Adesanya could finish Pereira with a flying triangle.
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Pereira was awarded his brown belt under teammate Glover Teixeira after UFC 281.
Jones told Submission Radio:
“It’s, I mean, I’m trying to think, I trained at City Kickboxing years ago and we like, did some wall wrestling. I think I had a seminar there. I did some wrestling. Trained with Izzy, back then.”
“And then yeah, we had the session where I did some work Volkanovski and Izzy was there.”
“Izzy, Carlos and Hickman were up after um. They did some wall wrestling after the Volkanovski training session and we sort of hung her out and then they put me in. So we just got to go to do some wall wrestling together. And yeah, just to see Izzy’s grappling improvement from the first time I trained with him to now. It’s just crazy. I mean, obviously, Izzy’s already Hall of fame level guy. Like, he’s just, he just still puts in the work.”
“And he’s asking questions about what happened in the exchanges and stuff. You know, like, just genuinely still curious about the technique and still cares about the sport. But yeah, he did go for a flying triangle on me and it was very close.”
“(I was) definitely surprised. But like, I mean, it just, I mean, it just shows like he’s, obviously, his striking technique’s very, very fancy. He does a lot of fancy s**t. It doesn’t surprise me that he’d be drawn to some of the fancy, a grappling technique too.”