Alex Pereira did it again.
The UFC newcomer became the new UFC middleweight champion after defeating former kickboxing rival and longtime champion Israel Adesanya by standing TKO in the fifth and final round of their main event bout at UFC 281.
But UFC President Dana White said they can run it back one more time, if Adesanya wants to.
“(Adesanya) wanted this fight,” White told reporters at the UFC 281 post-fight press conference. “A lot of people talk publicly and it’s a whole different story behind the scenes. That guy is an absolute stud. He always wants to stay active.
“In a fight that most guys would stall, ‘Give me more time. Give me this, that,’ he dove right into this fight. His only loss was when he tried to move up in weight to 205. You’ve got to respect him as champ and what he’s done. … I wouldn’t rule (an immediate rematch) out.”
All three judges had Adesanya winning 39-37 heading into the final round.
While Pereira had his moments, Adesanya found ways to wrestle Pereira and take him down to the mat – something that he isn’t typically known for.
But everything changed in the final round.
Pereira connected with a right hand and let his hands go from there. Adesanya was bobbing and weaving the hits, but referee Marc Goddard had seen enough since Adesanya didn’t seem capable of defending him.
In the post-fight press conference, Adesanya said that he will still fine at that point, but didn’t argue with the stoppage. He teased a rematch with Pereira – who defeated him twice in kickboxing, one by knockout – after congratulating his opponent on winning the title.
“It’s another great story for him, but it’s not over. This is still war,” Adesanya said.