Erik Perez had been going back-and-forth from Tijuana to San Diego to train at Alliance MMA. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and things got “a little crazy with the COVID.”
“I moved to San Diego this camp, all four weeks,” Perez told Cageside Press ahead of his return at Bellator 244 this Friday. He’s been staying with WEC/UFC legend Dominick Cruz, and training with the “Dominator” as well. “The camp is coming [along] really good.”
Perez (19-7) had a five-fight win streak snapped in his last outing, which was his Bellator debut, against Toby Misech. The bantamweight had a string of victories dating back to his UFC run, but that came to a halt back in December.
“The guy [didn’t] make weight. He missed weight by 6.4lbs. It’s another weight division, in boxing,” noted Perez when asked about the loss. As “El Goyito” pointed out, unlike boxing, MMA uses 4oz gloves. That extra weight can pack an extra wallop.
“I accepted the fight, so it was my fault. I’m not looking in the past right now, I have another opponent,” Perez continued. “A new opportunity to make me a better fighter. I’m going to go out and do my best to get that win.”
That opponent is Canada’s Josh Hill, a longtime veteran of the sport. It’s a fun match-up, with Fight of the Night-style potential. And a big win could do big things for Perez, who joined the UFC late last year.
Part of the decision to come to Bellator, after successful runs with the UFC and Combate Americas, was that “The division is very open,” explained Perez. “All the fighters are good, but it’s really, really very open. There’s not a champion in [the bantamweight division].”
“I love to fight in Bellator. I have just one fight, one loss. I’m ready to rock n’ roll,” he added. “To return, to fight, to [have] all the people see me, and see how “Goyito” power is.”
It’s not just fighting for a paycheck either. Perez has some lofty goals, and he’s still young enough that he has plenty of time to achieve them.
“Right now I have the experience. My technique is getting better. I’m only 30 years old,” he pointed out. No doubt, training with the likes of Cruz helps sharpen his skills. “I have a lot of experience, I have a lot of fights, I train with a lot of good people. Right now, I think it’s the time.”
What he wants is a shot at the title in that wide-open bantamweight division. “I’m coming for the belt. I have a need to make a good fight on the 21st [at Bellator 244], and I’m looking for the title. I’m looking to fight the best fighters in Bellator.”
As he forges ahead, Perez is also proud of the path he’s blazed, leading the way for other fighters from Mexico. When he entered the UFC, he said, “there was a lot of Mexican-Americans. When I came to the UFC, I was the first Mexican born in Mexico, made it in Mexico. It’s why it was a big thing. There was Mexicans, but they weren’t Mexicans, they were Mexican-Americans.”
“I was born in Mexico, I stayed in Mexico, I trained in Mexico,” he continued. “I was the first one. Right now, there’s so many Mexicans fighting, and I feel really happy, because my work is done.”
As a whole, said Perez, when it comes to the Mexican people, “we can fight. There’s a lot of boxers. And now, MMA.”
Bellator 244 takes place Friday, August 21 at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader defends his title against Vadim Nemkov in the main event.