Alexandre Pantoja Praises Depth of Flyweight Division Following UFC 301 Victory

UFC
May 6, 2024
Alexandre Pantoja was still bleeding when he arrived at the UFC 301 post-fight press conference on Saturday night.

That wound was well-earned, the product of a well-timed elbow landed by opponent Steve Erceg over the course of a grueling, five-round fight. While the blow had Pantoja leaking from his scalp, it couldn’t weaken the champion’s resolve, as he retained his flyweight belt with a unanimous decision triumph at the Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro.

“You’re not gonna take me out. As long as I’m breathing I’m going to be fighting back,” Pantoja said. “I did expect the fight to end sooner. But again, the Australian guy was very tough, he’s going to be very [tough] in the division. But you can see that right away when that elbow landed, I tried to stop the bleeding with my hands. But that’s part of it.”

Erceg was an unlikely title challenger, earning his opportunity after three victories and less than a year fighting under the UFC banner. The Australian proved to be a deserving opponent, but Pantoja was confident that the scorecards would be in his favor at the end of the night.

“I think I clearly won the first three rounds of the fight. The fourth round could’ve have been his. The fifth was mine. I definitely think it was 4-1,” Pantoja said. “This was very tough. This is a guy from Austraila. A guy very tough that people didn’t really know. He came in there to die. He was prepared to die, and I think that’s what it’s all about when you fight for a championship.”

According to Pantoja, Erceg’s emergence at UFC 301 is a testament to the quality of the flyweight division as a whole.

“I’ve always said this division is entirely tough. You can take the 10th-ranked guy and fight against the champion, and you saw exactly that tonight,” Pantoja said. “This division is all about work. You can’t move up in the rankings just by talking. I’m really happy to see this. I think it was a watershed moment for this division. We’ve been having main events in Mexico, there was a main event last week between flyweights. I’m very happy to see this moment.”

It’s also a division where extended reigns are difficult to come by. Case in point: On Saturday, Pantoja became the first flyweight king to earn two successful title defenses since Demetrious Johnson in 2018. Ultimately, such accomplishments don’t define the Brazilian known as “The Cannibal.”

“Those are just stats. My legacy is at home, my legacy is with my kids. And numbers really don’t matter in this division,” he said. “We saw the 10th-ranked guy in this division against the champion.

“It’s like two universes colliding. I’m over here, I’m happy with my family and everything. He was over there crying. He had his wife, he had his dad. It’s a very tough sport, nobody’s happy ending up in second place in MMA.”

Reference: https://www.sherdog.com/news/news/Alexandre-Pantoja-Praises-Depth-of-Flyweight-Division-Following-UFC-301-Victory-193577

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