Bareman spoke to the media in Adesanya’s stead following Saturday’s main event in Sydney, Australia, which saw Strickland win a commanding decision over “The Last Stylebender” to claim the UFC middleweight championship.
Strickland stung Adesanya early and controlled large portions of the fight, so when the scorecards were tallied, it wasn’t surprising in the slightest to see Strickland’s hand raised. That’s in stark contrast to the build-up to the fight that had many in the media calling Strickland one of the biggest underdogs in MMA history.
Though Adesanya may not have fought his best fight, Bareman credits Strickland with throwing the two-time champion off of his game.
“The universe does things and I think Sean’s a great fighter,” Bareman said. “I never once thought that Sean wasn’t capable of beating Israel, but I thought if Israel performed to the fullest of his capabilities, it would be a very hard fight for Sean. There was an alternate kind of universe, where Israel performs his poorest or poorly, where Sean could win and I’m sitting in that universe right now. He had an off night. Training camp was great, I’m not going to make any excuses in regard to that. Leading up to the fight, fight week was great, sparring partners, everything, all the technical little things to do with the camp, they were all perfect, so there’s no excuses there. He came in, he had an off night, he couldn’t see the same things that we were seeing. We couldn’t make a good connection in the corner.
“It was just a frustrating night. But why was it a frustrating night? Well, it was a frustrating night because of the opponent. Don’t take nothing away from the opponent.”
This is the second time in 10 months that Adesanya has seen the UFC middleweight title taken from him. At UFC 281 last November, Adesanya was finished in the fifth round by past kickboxing rival Alex Pereira, a stunning result in its own right that signaled the end of a five straight successful title defenses for Adesanya. He regained the title in an immediate rematch against Pereira at UFC 287 five months later.
Given the circumstances—and a clear-cut No. 1 contender in Dricus Du Plessis waiting in the wings—it’s unclear if Adesanya is in position to book himself another immediate rematch. Bareman anticipates planning for Strickland again would be an enormous challenge anyway, though only because they have to figure out what else they can do to prepare for an opponent that Adesanya was supposed to run over.
“In my career, I’ve been involved in a few rematch camps and they’re very, very difficult,” Bareman said. “Why are they so difficult, why is a rematch camp so difficult? Because you’re trying to find other stones to leave unturned, but you already haven’t left a stone unturned, so it’s almost an impossible task. You’re trying to find another level above the level that you’ve already achieved, but it’s not achievable, so it’s very, very difficult when you go into these rematch camps and at these levels I’ve done a few, the Pereira one just recently.
“It’s very, very difficult to do a rematch camp, but like I said, I don’t think we have to change too much but we will find something because we have the benefit of time. So we will get down to our usual business as a coaching team and we’ll find something to add to this camp and we’ll win the rematch.”
Bareman and his team are ready to put Adesanya back to work right away should the UFC call for it and they’ve already spoken to matchmaker Mick Maynard about setting up another date with Strickland. And no matter when it happens, Bareman is confident in an Adesanya victory.
“I asked Mick if we could have the rematch next weekend,” Bareman said. “Whether he grants it I’m not sure, but I’m just very confident that we can change the outcome of this fight with very minor adjustments. What I’m saying is we couldn’t get Israel to enact our plan, there wasn’t much cohesion in the corner. You have nights like this and I think we can do the rematch tomorrow and I think we can have a good night.”