Following a second-round knockout of Jiri Prochazka that won him the UFC light heavyweight title this past November, Pereira immediately called for a trilogy bout with Adesanya. The longtime rivals have met four times in combat sports, with Pereira defeating Adesanya twice in kickboxing before splitting a pair of fights inside the UFC octagon.
Pereira defeated Adesanya at UFC 281 to become middleweight champion before giving the belt back to “The Last Stylebender” in their rematch at UFC 287. A third meeting could settle their feud once and for all, but Adesanya is currently on a self-imposed hiatus from action that he announced shortly after losing his title to Sean Strickland at UFC 293.
If Adesanya sticks to his decision to stay out of competition, Pereira is ready to move on.
“It doesn’t matter for me,” Pereira said via a Portuguese translator at a recent Q&A in France hosted by Ares FC. “I called him out in the cage after the title win, and I wanted to give him the chance, and I saw he was not giving me any respect for this – he was laughing about it and making some jokes.
“So for me, it doesn’t matter anymore. I gave him the chance. If he comes up, nice; if he doesn’t, it doesn’t matter.”
Prior to the Strickland loss, Adesanya said on The MMA Hour that he would fight Pereira at 205 pounds if Pereira was able to capture that division’s title. Adesanya had previously attempted to become a two-division titleholder in March 2021 and lost a split decision to Jan Blachowicz in a champion vs. champion match.
However, since Pereira’s light heavyweight title win, Adesanya has yet to show interest in again changing divisions, which is fine with Pereira.
“I doubt if he really wants to fight me because, talking serious, he won once against me,” Pereira said. “It was his dream to win against me, he did it. So now getting into this cage again with me, he knows everything can happen, and he can lose again, so I’m really doubting if he’s motivated to fight me again.
“Like I said, I never choose my opponents. I don’t know what happens in the future, but I never choose. If he wants to fight, I welcome him in the cage.”
Several names potentially await Pereira when he books his first title defense, including former champion Jamahal Hill, whose relinquishing of the belt led to Pereira vs. Blachowicz, recent UFC Vegas 83 winner Khalil Rountree, and the winner of an upcoming contender bout between Blachowicz and Aleksandar Rakic.
Whoever Pereira faces next, he’ll be the A-side of that matchup, and he could have some say in where the fight takes place. Could a Brazil homecoming be in the cards?
“I like to fight,” he said. “For me it doesn’t matter where, I just like to fight. If they put me in the States or in Brazil, for me it doesn’t matter.
“But for sure, if I will fight in Brazil, it’s nice because I can show the people where I came from and they can live this experience and they can see and feel what you can reach in your life when you work hard. It’s nice to show them this closer, but I fight wherever they put me, it’s not my decision, so I just want to fight.”
Earlier, Pereira was asked if he’d consider moving up to heavyweight for the chance to become a three-division champion.
“It’s not my plan, actually, at the moment,” Pereira said. “I just went to a higher weight division and I feel very good in it. I just won the belt, so it shows I did something right, so I’m at the moment a light heavyweight.
“I’m not a heavyweight, and if my body calls me one day because I’m 36 years old now, my training changed a little bit, like the last three years my body changed a lot because of different training, not only kickboxing, as well a ground game, right? So my body changed. If my body will change more and my body will say, ‘Man, you can’t fight anymore at light heavyweight,’ OK, I will go up. But it’s not the plan at the moment.”