Israel Adesanya has been told the threat of Alex Pereira knocking him out for the third time will play on his mind in their fourth fight.
Pereira will make the first defence of his middleweight title since stopping Adesanya when the pair meet in a quadrilogy fight at UFC 287 on April 8. The Brazilian won the belt last November by stopping Adesanya in the final round of their title clash after falling behind on the scorecards.
Adesanya has now lost three fights to Pereira throughout his combat sports career, with 'The Last Stylebender' being beaten twice by his rival during their kickboxing days. MMA pioneer John McCarthy thinks the fourth fight between the rivals could go either way, but the threat of being knocked out will play on Adesanya's mind more than Pereira's given their history.
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"A guy beats you. Now, the first one in kickboxing, you look and you go, 'I don't think I lost that'. Okay, but then he goes and he starches you, so you got that loss and there's nothing you can say. Then, you have an MMA fight and you're doing well, and he puts you out again. Tell me it's not in the back of your mind," McCarthy said on the Weighing In podcast.
"We talk all the time about if a champion deserves a rematch, but I think Adesanya deserves it. He absolutely has a chance to win that fight, but I also think Alex has the chance to put him away again. There's so much involved in this fight and it could go either way, that's why people are going to want to watch it."
'The Last Stylebender' held the middleweight title for over three years and defended it five times, almost clearing out all of the top contenders at his weight class before losing the belt to Pereira. Adesanya's only other defeat in the UFC came when he attempted to become a two-weight champion by moving up to light-heavyweight in 2019, coming up short against former champion Jan Blachowicz.
Adesanya recently shared a video that featured clips from the horror franchise Saw to promote his fourth fight with Pereira, writing: "In this game, we don’t keep score…we settle them." Before their fight was announced, Pereira was teasing a move up to light-heavyweight after Jamahal Hill won the vacant title by defeating the middleweight champion's coach Glover Teixeira at UFC 283 earlier this month.