Zhilei Zhang has admitted he shared "tough" rounds with UFC champion Alex Pereira ahead of his rematch with Israel Adesanya.
UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira is in training camp preparing for his rematch with bitter rival Adesanya set for Miami at UFC 286 on April 9. The Brazilian picked up the title with a final-round KO last year of the Nigerian, and will now face an immediate challenge from the ex-champion, who is looking to halt his sharp rise to the ascendency.
Equally boxing star Zhang is back in training himself as he prepares to touch gloves with British star Joe Joyce at the Copper Box on April 22. Last week, Pereira posted a series of images of the pair, with the Brazilian having travelled to the Chinese contender's camp to share some rounds in the squared circle.
He tweeted: "What a sparring session! After four rounds with Zhilei Zhang, I'm very confident for my next fight ! It was hard and dangerous sparring - exactly what I needed. Now I know even more ready for April 8!"
And in an exclusive chat with Mirror Fighting courtesy of FreeBets.com, Zhang revealed that he learned a lot from sharing time with Pereira who is becoming one of combat sport's most powerful stars. "So I know he is fighting very soon against Israel Adesanya," Zhang said. "He is fighting on April 8 so he came over and travelled to my training camp.
"We sparred for a couple of tough rounds and it was great to share the ring with him. I think it is a great opportunity for me to learn what is outside of the boxing ring and improve my skill on the other side. He is a great UFC fighter and I look at it as a learning process. We both learn from each other and he is a great guy."
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Pereira is expected to be able to move up in weight if he is able to continuously conquer the division at middleweight, given his huge frame and size for the weight. The Brazilian has beaten Adesanya on three occasions now having also knocked 'The Last Stylebender' out cold in one of their two previous kickboxing meetings.
UFC star Sean Strickland has surprisingly backed Adesanya to get his revenge with a different fighting style in the second meeting. "I think Izzy. I thought Izzy was gonna win last time," Strickland said. "I thought, 'Izzy’s gonna f***ing dance around like a little f***ing b***h and outpoint him,' and I think he’s gonna man up and do it this fight.
"That’s the thing, when you’re fighting motherf***ers that have 80-something-inch reach, that’s a hard thing to do, especially when you’re trying to kickbox. "So, I think Izzy’s gonna do the right thing and just run and dance, and be a little f*cking b*tch about it."