Israel Adesanya wanted a quick rematch after a November loss to Alex Pereira stripped him of the 185-pound championship belt he’d held since 2019.
Five months later in UFC 287 in Miami early Sunday, Adesanya dropped the middleweight champion Pereira with two right hands, then raised his fists in triumph as he took back his middleweight championship belt and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history.
“I hope every one of you behind the screen or in this arena can feel this level of happiness just one time in your life,” Adesanya said. “But guess what, you’ll never feel this level of happiness if you don’t go for something.”
Pereira (7-2) landed a knee that pushed Adesanya (24-2) into the cage in the second round. Adesanya came off the cage with two right hooks and a right hammer fist, followed by ground and pound to end the fight at 4:21.
The 35-year-old Pereira had never lost to Adesanya. Before he scored a TKO win for the welterweight belt in UFC 281 in November, Pereira defeated Adesanya twice in kick boxing.
Adesanya, born in Nigeria but raised in New Zealand, entered the UFC in 2018 and won the middleweight belt a year later when he beat then-champion Robert Whittaker in a stunning knockout.
He successfully defended his title five times as he became one of the sport’s main draws. He was in unfamiliar territory Saturday as the challenger.
“They say revenge is sweet,” Adesanya said. “And if you know me, I’ve got a sweet tooth.”