Alex Perez is the unlikely challenger for the UFC’s flyweight title this Saturday at UFC 255.
Unlikely only because that main event fight with Deiveson Figueiredo was supposed to be against Cody Garbrandt.
The booking of Garbrandt, a former bantamweight champ, for a 125lb title shot without ever having fought in the division rubbed a lot of MMA fans the wrong way. But a torn bicep later, and it’s Perez (24-5) stepping into the fight.
When the call from his manager came, delivering the news that he’d be fighting for the championship, “it took a little for it to hit me,” Perez admitted during the UFC 255 media day this week. It was the middle of the night. Once the reality of the fight sunk in, sleep was futile. Perez considered going for a run. “I think I got only like two, three hours of sleep at night just thinking about it,” the flyweight admitted.
The emotional roller coaster has continued all the way to Fight Week. Confident, anxious, nervous — Perez said he was feeling “all of the above” during media day.
“I’m confident always, because of how hard I train, all the work I put in. Nervous because I’m about to fight someone, someone’s gonna try to kill me,” admitted Perez. “Anxious because I’ve been training for eight, nine weeks to fight. I feel amazing, it’s probably the best I’ve ever felt, the best my body has felt. As cliche as that sounds, everybody says it every interview, but it’s the best I’ve ever felt.”
In his favor, it seems on the surface that champ Figueiredo might be overlooking Perez a little. Perez is fine with that, in fact he is pretty much used to it. “It doesn’t really matter what anybody says. It doesn’t bug me,” Perez stated. “[Figueiredo’s] saying that because he’s hyping himself up. My fights speak for themselves.” Besides which, it could be a benefit. “If he thinks I’m slow then I guess I’m slow. I mean, there’s not really much to say. If he is underestimating me then cool. I figure that a lot of my opponents do just because I’m not like a big, known name kind of guy. I didn’t get signed straight to the UFC. They weren’t looking like, ‘hey, we need to sign Alex Perez.’ I worked my way in here.”
He’s now worked his way to a title shot — and perhaps the top of the world come Saturday.
UFC 255 takes place Saturday, November 21 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card airs live on PPV following online and televised prelims.