This weekend sees UFC 255 go down from Las Vegas, and the UFC Flyweight title will be on the line in the main event as champion Deiveson Figueiredo defends against challenger Alex Perez. But many casual fans might be asking the same question – who is Alex Perez?
Incredibly, for a fighter who’s been in the UFC since 2017, not all that much is known about Alex Perez. However, this ultra-talented fighter could well claim UFC gold this weekend, and so he may well end up on the fast-track to stardom.
With that in mind, here are five interesting facts about Alex Perez.
#1 Alex Perez is a former TPF Flyweight Champion
Everyone remembers the UFC’s sister promotion – the WEC – fondly, but before Zuffa bought out the WEC, it was a regional promotion operating out of Lemoore, California’s Tachi Palace Casino. And when Zuffa took the WEC over to Las Vegas, MMA continued in Lemoore in the form of Tachi Palace Fights (TPF).
Most of the USA’s regional promotions are unremarkable, but that wasn’t the case for TPF. That was because they spotted a gap in the market and became one of just a handful of US promotions to play host to a Flyweight division.
TPF’s Flyweight division quickly became known as the world’s best proving ground for 125lbs fighters, particularly in 2010, when they were able to sign Jussier Formiga, who was ranked as the best in the world at that time.
Formiga ended up being beaten, though, by Ian McCall, who quickly took the mantle of the world’s best Flyweight and then headed to the UFC when they added the 125lbs division. But TPF continued to promote fights, and in 2015, a certain Alex Perez captured their Flyweight title by beating Anthony Figueroa.
Perez was defeated for the title by Adam Antolin – who competed on TUF 24 – in his first defense. But if he wins UFC gold this weekend, he’ll become the only fighter to hold both titles, in a cool nod back at MMA’s storied history.
#2 Alex Perez owns a rare TKO win in the UFC via leg kicks
Shogun lost the fight after a controversial decision that many fans felt he deserved to win, largely because he landed countless leg kicks on the champion. But Peoples believed otherwise and declared that “leg kicks don’t win fights."
However, that’s distinctly not the case. A TKO finish via leg kicks is rare – particularly in the UFC – but there have been 12 such finishes in UFC history, and Alex Perez is the owner of the most recent one. He took out longtime Flyweight contender Jussier Formiga with a series of vicious kicks to the calf in June, claiming his title shot in the process.
By winning a fight by leg kicks, Alex Perez joined an exclusive club that also contains such luminaries as Edson Barboza, Pat Barry, and Antoni Hardonk. So judging by his history, Deiveson Figueiredo would do well to watch out for Perez’s leg kicks this weekend.
#3 He trained boxing in the same gym as WBC and WBO Light Welterweight champion Jose Ramirez
Although Alex Perez was renowned as a wrestler in his collegiate days – representing West Hills College Lemoore – he actually dabbled in boxing before becoming a burgeoning MMA fighter. And interestingly, he’s trained with one of the best boxers in the world today.
In an interview with Thomas Gerbasi for UFC.com, Alex Perez explained that while he didn’t start watching fighting until he was in the “fifth or sixth grade”, when he took up boxing, he found himself training alongside one Jose Ramirez.
For those unaware, Ramirez not only represented the US in boxing at the 2012 Olympics in London, but he’s also the reigning WBO and WBC Light Welterweight champion, sporting a professional record of 26-0.
How much Alex Perez was able to learn from Ramirez is unknown, but it seems that the future UFC star was definitely inspired. In the interview, Perez stated that “he was from a town over and seeing him come from a smaller town than I’m from and go to the Olympics, it was kind of crazy."
Of course, if Alex Perez can capture UFC gold this weekend, then he’ll join his former training partner as someone who graduated from a small gym to find glory on the big stage.
#4 He could become the first graduate of Dana White’s Contender Series to win UFC gold
Since its inauguration in 2017, Dana White’s Contender Series has replaced the Ultimate Fighter reality show as probably the best path for a young prospect to follow in order to make it into the UFC.
However, unlike TUF, which produced UFC champions like Forrest Griffin and T.J. Dillashaw, nobody who emerged from DWCS has been able to capture UFC gold. But, of course, that could easily change this weekend.
Alex Perez was one of the first graduates of DWCS, as he won his UFC contract by submitting Kevin Gray with an anaconda choke back in August 2017 during the first season of the show.
At the time, his signing flew largely under the radar, as the likes of Sean O’Malley, Karl Roberson, and Geoff Neal garnered far more hype for their Contender Series wins. But three years down the line, it’s Alex Perez who has the chance to become the first graduate of DWCS to win UFC gold.
If he can do so, there would be no more questions around the strength of the fighters unearthed by the series.
#5 He’s missed the 125lbs Flyweight limit on more than one occasion
Current UFC Flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo infamously had to defeat top contender Joseph Benavidez twice in order to claim the vacant title. And unfortunately, it was entirely his own fault. Figueiredo missed weight for his first title fight with Benavidez and became ineligible to win the gold because of it.
Worryingly, Alex Perez is also no stranger to a weight-cutting snafu. While he’s only missed the 125lbs Flyweight limit once in his UFC career – for his 2018 victory over Eric Shelton – his earlier career is littered with such incidents.
Perez missed the Flyweight cut-off on three occasions during his career with Tachi Palace Fights, most notably in his fight with Martin Sandoval, which had to be turned into a non-title affair.
And worryingly, he’s even missed the 135lbs Bantamweight limit on one occasion, too. Thankfully though, Perez is now on a run of five straight fights where he’s made 125lbs comfortably enough. Let’s hope he manages to do the same on Saturday – or we could be in for another unplanned non-title fight.Published 18 Nov 2020, 23:19 IST