RIO DE JANEIRO — Alex Pereira is already planning his next move as UFC middleweight champion.
Months removed from his thrilling fifth-round knockout victory over Israel Adesanya to capture the 185-pound championship in New York, “Poatan” said in an interview with MMA Fighting that re-entering the octagon in May would be “perfect”, but the opponent is still yet to be determined.
A fourth clash with Adesanya — two in kickboxing and one in the UFC — is the No. 1 option, Pereira said, but former champion Robert Whittaker could enter the conversation.
“I see these two guys [next],” Pereira said. “Adesanya was a dominant champion so he has the preference to be competing for the belt again, but if he doesn’t want that, it will be Whittaker. I don’t think they’ll put someone else in other than Whittaker. He already said his game doesn’t match well with Adesanya but would be a good fight with me, so I’ll be ready for both.”
Adesanya never lost a middleweight bout in MMA prior to his encounter with Pereira at Madison Square Garden, but Pereira won’t push for another bout.
“I won’t do anything to hurt Adesanya’s plans and avoid this fight,” he said. “If that’s what he wants, we’ll fight. If for some reason he doesn’t want to fight me, that makes no difference to me, it’ll be Whittaker instead. And if Whittaker doesn’t want it, there are several others that do.”
Adesanya is 0-3 against the Brazilian in two combat sports and Pereira felt that beating his longtime rival in kickboxing was harder to his body that coming back in the final round to win in the UFC. For “Poatan”, however, going for a fourth clash with someone he beat three times already requires a strong mind.
“I try to forget what has happened,” Pereira said. “If we think about having three wins over someone and think it’s going to be easy — I said it before the [third fight] that it makes no difference, I can’t cross my arms and expect him to go out in front of me. He’ll always try to evolve and come a better fighter, and I have to be better than last time to be fighting this guy because it will be a tough fight.”