Sean Strickland isn’t blind to the UFC’s intentions with his matchup against Alex Pereira.
Strickland is set to meet the former two-division GLORY kickboxing champion on Saturday at UFC 276. The controversial American is a perfect 5-0 since moving up to 185 pounds and is currently MMA Fighting’s No. 8 ranked middleweight in the world. Pereira, on the other hand, is the owner of just five total wins throughout his entire MMA career, and enters the pay-per-view bout sitting just 2-0 in the UFC without a single victory over a ranked foe.
Despite that inexperience, UFC president Dana White already made it clear that Pereira could be next in line for a title shot against the winner of Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Cannonier if he manages to get past Strickland, if only because of the history Pereira and Adesanya share dating back to their kickboxing days. And it’s safe to say Strickland understands exactly why the UFC targeted him as the man to test Pereira at UFC 276.
“If we learned anything about UFC rankings, [they] mean nothing,” Strickland said Wednesday at UFC 276 media day. “At the end of the day, it means nothing. He’s the one that knocked out Izzy, so it’s like here’s what you can do: You can have him go and then he’ll eventually fight a wrestler who will take him down and beat him, and then they’ll never get the Izzy shot, or they could be like, ‘Hey, why don’t we have him fight Sean? Sean doesn’t like to wrestle. Maybe if [Pereira] beats him, then we could float him to the top.’
“So this is literally purely just a ploy by the UFC, putting him against somebody who likes to strike, to potentially get him an Izzy shot. So, UFC, I applaud you, but I might f****** wrestle.”
The rivalry between Pereira and Adesanya has been on the UFC’s radar since Pereira debuted with a spectacular knockout of Andreas Michailidis in November 2021.
Pereira and Adesanya fought twice before in kickboxing. In their first meeting in April 2016, the Brazilian won a decision over the future UFC champion. One year later, Pereira scored a highlight-reel knockout over Adesanya in their March 2017 rematch.
Yet even if Strickland knows his strongest advantages at UFC 276 will be on the mat, he’s undaunted by the prospect of standing with the former GLORY double champ.
“Here’s the thing, man. Here’s the f****** thing. Let me tell you guys something. There’s not one GLORY f****** kickboxer in any f****** weight class that I couldn’t stand and bang with,” Stickland said. “So don’t f****** tell me just because you’re some big f****** Brazilian and you knocked out Izzy 20 years ago that f****** I can’t stand with you.
“Come on, motherf******. Get out of here.”
That being said, Strickland admitted he isn’t afraid to call an audible if things begin to trend southward quickly against Pereira at UFC 276 once the time comes.
“We’ll find out,” Strickland said. “I don’t really go in with a game plan. I mean, obviously if I go in there and he starts f****** hurting me, yeah, I’m going to take the coward’s way out and try to wrestle.
“But hopefully I can stand and bang with this gigantic scary f****** Brazilian.”