Israel Adesanya had a game plan this past Saturday.
But that strategy was cut short after referee Marc Goddard put a stop to the action, marking Alex Pereira as the new UFC middleweight champion.
In the final round of UFC 281’s main event, Pereira exploded and landed numerous big shots on Adesanya. Pereira continued to pounce while Adesanya rode along the cage, bobbing and weaving, trying to escape his opponent’s hits.
But for Goddard, he thought that he had seen enough, and waved off the fight at 2:01 minutes of the fifth round.
As soon as it was called off, Adesanya rose from his slugged stance and seemed disappointed with the decision.
But even now, the “Last Stylebender” isn’t blaming Goddard for what he did.
“I don’t blame the referee,” Adesanya said.
“Marc did a good job, but you see it when I get up. I’m fine. I was lucid. I didn’t get rocked rocked. I got hit hit against the fence and my thought was, ‘Escape, laterally, either left or right.’ I went right and as I was going right — it wasn’t because I was rocked, it was my foot. You know the perineal [nerve]? It happened to Michael Chandler, [Henry] Cejudo, our boy, Jimmy Crute, it happened to him as well.
“So at some point in the fight, I’m trying to move. … You know when you’re walking and your leg trips and it drags on the floor accidentally? I was getting that through the fight, and I’m like, ‘Is something wrong with my leg?’ And eventually I was like, ‘Oh s***, I think my leg is that thing.’ I’ve never had it happen to me in a fight before, ever, but I knew what it was. So he hit me with two big shots, lateral move … and then I tripped. So it looked bad. I think the referee was like, ‘Two big shots and he wobbles, oh s***.’ It wasn’t from the shots, I promise you. There’s no reason for me to lie. It was from the legs, which he caused, the damage.
“So I was like, ‘OK, stand there, stand there, just don’t move anymore, let him gas out,’” Adesanya continued. “So I was waiting for him to take big shots, so I put my head down; I could see his arms and I could see his legs. That’s all I needed to look at. I know where his head is. So I’m just there moving, moving, moving. But to the referee, after two big shots and then I wobble, and I’m standing there looking like that, he’s going to be like, ‘Nah.’ And he’s being safe. So when he jumped in I’m like, ‘I’m fine. Aw, f***.’ I was literally just disappointed. I was waiting for him to gas out so I can do my work. I was going to take him down and then beat him up again.”
At the post-fight press conference, Adesanya also said that he was fine and it shouldn’t have been stopped, but again, did not blame Goddard.
Adesanya, who’s now 0-3 against Pereira (the first two coming from kickboxing bouts), said that there’s still “war.” UFC President Dana White also recently said that if Adesanya wants an immediate rematch, he can get one.
“I did everything in my power to make sure I was ready for this fight,” said Adesanya.
“I was the best I’ve ever felt. Literally the best I’ve ever felt. I got compromised.”