Tristan Connelly Saw Holes in Michel Pereira’s Game Ahead of UFC Vancouver

Tristan Connelly is heading back on down to lightweight after a breakthrough performance at 170lbs on the UFC Vancouver main card.

Vancouver, B.C. — Star turns in MMA don’t come much better than a Fight of the Night upset in your short notice debut, while moving up a weight class. But B.C.’s own Tristan Connelly managed all that in front of a roaring partisan crowd at the Rogers Arena on Saturday night.

Connelly (14-6) was tasked with facing Michel Pereira, a flashy Brazilian known for his flips, cage strikes, and overall creativity. Few gave Connelly a chance, especially on short notice. Especially given the size difference between the two.

But Connelly, as Canadian as they come, was welcoming the David vs. Goliath battle heading into the fight. The bigger they are, after all. And while Pereira didn’t fall, a decision win was enough for Connelly. Plus, with ‘Demolidor’ missing weight, Connelly doubled up on the bonus money. A cool $100,000.

Still a bit overwhelmed, no doubt, speaking to reporters including Cageside Press backstage after the event, Connelly admitted that it was too soon to really comprehend the impact of the night at that moment. “I feel like things are going to be a little different starting tomorrow,” he added.

Connelly had said from the outset that the longer the fight went, the more favorable it would be for him. “Of course you’re always a little surprised,” he said, asked about his prediction coming true. “It’s a fight. But I felt as confident as I could. As soon as he hit me with one or two punches, I was like ‘oh okay, he’s not going to hurt me, I’m just going to come forward and do what I do.’ And here we are.”

His confidence level went up after Pereira missed weight. “To me, you make weight. And if you don’t, it shows weakness,” said Connelly. “And that’s what I saw.”

He takes no disrespect from Pereira’s flashy style, he said, when the issue was brought up by one reporter. “Absolutely not. He’s here in the UFC because this is what got him here. It’s a fight. However you want to fight, if it can win you the fight, then that’s not disrespectful, that’s doing your job. And he did his job, I did mine, and I came out on top.”

An important factor, he told Cageside Press, was to not get caught looking. “Definitely. You can’t stop against him, and you can’t back up against him. Those are two things I knew,” Connelly said. “I’ve been training with Capoeira guys for a long time. What he’s trying to do is get you to freeze so he can hit you. So I just knew I had to be in his face, in his face.”

As confident as Tristan Connelly was, “I was a little worried about the size initially, and his early power. But he hit me with a clean punch in the first round, and I was like ‘eh.’ When I got my arms around him, he didn’t feel all that much stronger. I was like ‘okay, I can do this, I’m just going to keep coming forward.'”

Come forward he did. “My confidence raised the longer the fight went.”

The short-notice nature of the scrap may also have been a blessing. No distractions, no long build-up. “Yeah, I mean, I’m always ready. I’m always in shape,” answered Connelly when that idea was brought up. “My full time thing is I train three times a day, and I teach classes. That’s all I do. I eat breathe and live this sport.”

Before there had even been a withdrawal from UFC Vancouver, Connelly was preparing to step up. “I’m always ready, and I knew UFC was coming. I was planning on cutting to lightweight,” he revealed. “I was still dieting, and cutting to lightweight. Even when I found a welterweight was out on Saturday, I didn’t find out [I got the fight] until Monday night. So I had to keep dieting to be ready for lightweight in case I didn’t get the welterweight shot. I’m actually lighter tonight than I usually am when I fight at lightweight. I didn’t put a whole lot back on.”

After this, however, it’s back to 155lbs. “Yeah absolutely,” he said. “I really liked the match-up, as a welterweight. It’s crazy, there was so much hype behind him. I’m like ‘I saw a lot of holes.’ I’d be way more terrified to fight a welterweight that just was a fundamental boxer, wrestler. That would have been way harder for me to deal with, with the size discrepancy.”

However, “I knew the way he fought, I know how durable I am. I know he’s a big guy cutting weight, and he’s flashy, I’m used to flashy guys,” Connelly continued. “I figured if I have to fight a welterweight, this is the one to do it, but I’m definitely going back to lightweight. I don’t want nothing to do with the rest of the welterweights in the division.”

Watch the full UFC Vancouver (UFC Fight Night 158) post-fight press scrum with Tristan Connelly above!