Just a month after defending his UFC middleweight title in Las Vegas, Israel Adesanya has booked his next assignment.
A rematch too tantalising for the promotion to pass up on, Adesanya will put his title on the line against former kickboxing for Alex Pereira at UFC 281 at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 13 (NZ time).
It was a rematch that many expected to eventually happen when Pereira signed with the UFC last year, given he holds a 2-0 record over Adesanya in their kickboxing meetings. Pereira only joined the UFC with a 3-1 professional record, but has made short work of two of the three opponents placed in front of him by the UFC - most recently demolishing top-10 ranked Sean Strickland in the first round at UFC 276; the same card as Adesanya's last defence. The third he won in a three-round back-and-forth battle against fellow Brazilian Bruno Silva.
The win against Strickland put him on the fast track to a title shot with Adesanya having already dealt with challenges from those ranked above him, and fuel was added to the fie after Adesanya's most recent win - via unanimous decision over Jared Cannonier - when the champion said Pereira would be next for him.
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"The next one is something interesting for me," Adesanya said.
"It's someone I've fought in a different code, and I get to show him what MMA is about; what mixed martial arts is about.
"I like the story. Like, I've said my life is a movie; my life is an anime' - whatever. I'm facing a guy who has beaten me in kickboxing and now he's still chasing me because he knows I'm the king and he wants to get that away from me."
Given their history, it appeared the UFC had set them on a collision course by having them both appear at UFC 276, as they were both asked several questions about one another at media conferences before and after the event, including Pereira's dismissive assessment of Adesanya's winning performance.
"It's nice at the top, so whatever he feels he needs to do to make me fight," Adesanya said of Pereira's criticism.
The pair will square off in the main event at UFC 281, with the rest of the card yet to be confirmed.