Israel Adesanya and the Rapper Drake Get Beat at UFC 281

Posted on: November 14, 2022, 06:57h. 

Last updated on: November 14, 2022, 11:09h.

Israel Adesanya was confident that he could defend his title when he took on Alex Pereira in UFC 281. He wasn’t the only one mistaken about the fight’s outcome, as the rapper Drake took a large financial hit after backing Adesanya to win.

Pereira beats Adesanya
Alex Pereira lands a blow to Israel Adesanya in their UFC 281 match. The Brazilian won for the third time, taking the title from the reigning champ. (Image: Zuffa LLC)

For much of the fight, Adesanya was in control. He took advantage of his kicks and quick punches to the face of his Brazilian opponent, who ended up staying alive thanks to the bell.

Despite trailing in the matchup, Pereira began hurting Adesanya in the fourth round. He stepped in mostly with overhand punches that continued to pummel his opponent into the fifth and final round.

Adesanya Loses Crown

Pereira took down Adesanya by TKO to win the middleweight belt. He landed several hooks until referee Marc Goddard intervened to prevent further damage. At the end of the fight, the new champ raised his hand to display ‘3-0,’ a reference to the number of times he has beaten Adesanya.

Pereira and Adesanya traded punches and takedowns for five rounds, and it was late in the final round when the South American pressured the former champion to the fence. He then finished him off with some power shots that forced the ref’s intervention.

It was in the fifth and final round that Pereira truly demonstrated his power by throwing different combinations. He came at his opponent with a right overhand and a couple of hooks that were simply too much for Adesanya, ending the fight.

Pereira scored the knockout and the title with just two minutes remaining in the fight. With just four fights under his belt in the UFC, the Brazilian became the king of the middleweights.

On the remainder of the UFC 281 card, Weili Zhang took the strawweight championship from Carla Esparza, submitting her in the second round. Dustin Poirier, in a major upset, finished Michael Chandler at the end of the third round, while in another match, veteran former lightweight champion Frankie Edgar retired after losing his bout against Chris Gutierrez via knockout.

The UFC celebrated on Saturday night, but mourned the following day. Two-time UFC title contender Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, 38, died of a “mysterious illness,” according to multiple media reports.

Johnson had previously admitted on several occasions that his health was declining. Rumble only fought once last year and was to return this year before his health issues forced the cancellation of a fight.

Winners and Losers

He may have lost in the octagon, but Adesanya didn’t lose in the wallet. UFC data estimates that he took home $1.79M for the fight – $1M for appearing, $42K through sponsorships, and $750K in PPV sales.

Pereira scored by taking the title while also fattening his bank account. He likely made $932K, composed of $500K for accepting the fight, $100K for winning, and $32K from sponsorships. To that, he adds a $50K “performance” bonus and $300K in PPV sales.

Esparza couldn’t stand up to her challenger, but still took home $542K for the fight – $500K for appearing, $42K through sponsorships. An additional $150K in PPV sales sweetened the pot. Weili’s purse for the fight was larger, at $667K. That included $210K for the appearance, $100K for the win, $32K in sponsorships, and a $50K performance bonus. She pocketed another $275K in PPV sales.

Sports betting and online gambling fan Drake didn’t do as well as the fighters on Saturday night. The Canadian rapper reportedly lost $2 million after betting on Adesanya to win, which was twice as much as he laid down in the fighter’s UFC 276 bout.

While the loss may have staggered Drake in the short term, he’ll have a chance for redemption, with UFC Fight Night coming this Saturday.