Pereira is one of the few men to have ever bested UFC poster boy Adesanya, having defeated the Nigerian-born Kiwi in two prior kickboxing encounters – once by decision in 2016 and again a year later, via knockout.
But it will be the first time Adesanya (23-1-0) and Pereira (6-1-0) meet in the UFC, with the former having successfully defended his middleweight title five times dating back to October 2019.
Earlier this week the Brazillian claimed he had the mental edge over the middleweight champion, adding he had “screwed his mind” with the brutal KO on Adesanya five years earlier.
And Pereira went to Saturday’s weigh-in with intimidation in mind, donning a head dress and red face paint – the look of a man ready to go to war.
But Adesanya appeared unmoved by the spectacle, declaring: “I’m done talking. We’ll fight tomorrow.”
There was some late drama at Saturday’s weigh-in with Pereira leaving his trip to the scales until the final few minutes before comfortably making weight at 184.6 pounds, while Adesanya tipped the scales at 185 pounds.
Adesanya is unbeaten in the middleweight division and defended his title only last month, at UFC 276, against Jared Cannonier. Pereira produced a first-round knockout of Sean Strickland on the same card and is 3-0 in his UFC career.
“Who wants to hear, ‘and new’ tomorrow?” Adesanya asked the crowd at Saturday’s weigh-in, before continuing: “ (And) who wants to hear, ‘and still’ tomorrow?”, which was met with a cheer.
Speaking via translator, Pereira voiced a similar opinion to that of his old kickboxing rival.
“This is a great opportunity for me … I want to be here, I want to be champion and I’ve said a lot. All I want to do is fight now,” the 35 year old said.
Meanwhile, Carla Esparza will defend her strawweight title for the first time since dethroning Rose Namajunas and regaining the belt she lost eight years earlier.
Esparza took the title at UFC 274 in May when she defeated Namajunas in a split decision. She returns to the octagon now as a two-time champion, with Zhang Weili ready to test her title credentials.
“It means so much to me (to have the title),” Esparza said.
“I fought eight years to get back here, to hear those words, ‘And still’. I’m super excited, I worked really hard for this and I can’t wait to put on a show.”
Originally published as UFC 281: Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira speak ahead of fight in New York City