Issue 206

July 2024

Paul Browne delves into the meteoric rise of Alex Pereira, exploring what's next for the UFC's most electrifying champion. Why? Well, not since the heady days of Conor McGregor’s ascent in 2013-2015 have we seen such an electric rise to prominence as we are witnessing with Alex Pereira.

The former Glory Kickboxing two-weight world champion has not only been a success in his new career in MMA, but he has carved a path to championship gold within the UFC that beggars belief.

In nine fights inside the Octagon, ‘Poatan’ has won titles at middleweight and light heavyweight. He has also successfully defended the 205lb belt twice and headlined at the iconic Madison Square Garden twice. He was also the big ticket at UFC 300 and the T-Mobile Arena during International Fight Week.

The 36-year-old is ripping up the rule book and has already built one of the greatest legacies in the history of the UFC, despite being little more than two years removed from his debut appearance against Bruno Silva at the UFC Apex.


The manner with which he has endeared himself to UFC fans, despite rarely attempting to speak English during interviews, is unheard of. In a modern MMA landscape of identikit athletes who espouse cliché after cliché, seeing a fighter with such a natural ability to perform and be unique without seeming false or staged is a breath of fresh air. His tribal-themed walkouts and the intense stare-downs before his two fights with Jiri Prochazka will be talked about by UFC fans for years to come.

His standing with the powers that be within the UFC has also skyrocketed due to his reliability. Time after time, Pereira has been the man Dana White and Hunter Campbell turned to when they needed to fill a prime-time slot at one of their pay-per-view events. When Jon Jones tore his pectoral tendon in the lead-up to UFC 295 late in 2023, ‘Poatan’ stepped up to the plate and filled the main event slot.

When the attempts to create an awe-inspiring headline slot for UFC 300 hit a roadblock, Pereira willingly accepted their belated invite and stole the show with his devastating finish of Jamahal Hill.

His latest triumph at UFC 303 came after he once again answered the UFC’s ‘bat signal’ to rematch Jiri Prochazka on little over two weeks’ notice, despite being on a seminar tour of Australia and nursing two broken toes. His ability to walk into such high-stakes matchups at the drop of a hat and demolish a comprehensive list of former world champions is something we have never seen before in the sport's history. But what happens next in this fairytale story of Alex Pereira?

Let’s look at the options available to ‘Poatan’ after UFC 303.


In his post-fight interview at UFC 300, Alex Pereira stated that he would like to test the waters at heavyweight (and possibly stake a claim to be the first fighter to win championship gold in three separate weight divisions). This comment triggered rumors that his next fight may occur at a higher weight class.

The Brazilian holds victories over three of the top four contenders at 205lbs already, all of whom are former champions (Jiri Prochazka, Jamahal Hill, and Jan Blachowicz). Should he stay in his lane and defend his light heavyweight title next, then Magomed Ankalaev is the standout option available to Pereira. The Russian is on a ten-fight winning streak within the UFC, has not fought since January’s knockout win over Johnny Walker, and is the only potential opponent on this list who doesn’t already have a fight booked.

While Pereira has impressed fans with his striking prowess and knockout power during his short UFC career, his detractors have leveled the same accusations that a young Conor McGregor received during his run at 145lbs. They say he has yet to face an opponent with a high grappling pedigree. Ankalaev is undoubtedly an accomplished wrestler with a higher takedown accuracy percentage in his UFC career than any of Pereira’s opponents (outside of Jan Blachowicz).

One negative that may scupper Ankalaev’s chances of getting the fight against Pereira could be his lack of star power. Compared to the other names on this list, Ankalaev is perhaps an unknown quantity to casual UFC fans. Still, he holds the advantage of being the valid option if the champion elects to stay at 205 lbs.


While addressing the media after Alex Pereira’s knockout victory over Jiri Prochazka at UFC 303, Dana White admitted he isn’t sold on the idea of the Brazilian moving up to heavyweight for a super-fight with Jon Jones. “It’s not that I’m not into it,” said White while speaking at the post-fight press conference. “The guy was a middleweight and then moves up to light heavyweight. He’s had a couple of fights there and defended his title, but it’s not like this guy has been in the division for two years, and he ran through everybody that’s in the division, and it’s like, ‘Come on, what’s next?”

“If he cleaned out the division,” White continued, “and we were like, ‘There’s literally nobody for this guy to fight,’ and he’s 37, if he wants to move up to heavyweight – but that’s not the case”.

While Dana White may seem reluctant to facilitate Pereira’s ambition of competing in three weight divisions, it appears that current heavyweight champion Jon Jones is undoubtedly a fan of the idea. ‘Bones’ conducted an X poll earlier this year asking who fans would prefer to see him face next, should he emerge from his next fight against Stipe Miocic with his hand raised. While many fans called for him to unify the belts by fighting interim champion Tom Aspinall, Jones seemed to spend a noticeable amount of time and energy making the case for a match-up with Pereira instead.

Jones won the vacant heavyweight title at UFC 285 in March of 2023 when he beat stylish striker Cyril Gane in just over two minutes. The ease with which he dispatched the Frenchman by taking him down and submitting him against the cage will likely fill him with confidence that he can handle Pereira in a similar fashion.

The biggest stumbling block in creating any potential fight between Jones and Pereria will be the presence of Stipe Miocic. Jones was set to fight the former champion before he picked up his injury, and despite Tom Aspinall having the interim belt, Dana White has publicly stated that the UFC aims to press ahead with their original plans for the Jones-Miocic fight to happen once the champion is fully recovered.

With no date announced yet for that fight (and no guarantees Jones won’t drift off into the sunset when it does finally happen), it’s improbable that ‘Bones’ will be the next man to step into the Octagon to face Alex Pereira.


If Jones is out of reach as far as heavyweight opponents go, the UFC 304 co-main event winner between Tom Aspinall and Curtis Blaydes could prove a much more realistic option for Pereira. Given that the pair will rematch on the Manchester PPV event just weeks after the Brazilian knocked out Prochazka, the respective timelines certainly sync up well.

After Jon Jones fell out of UFC 295 last year, Aspinall was drafted in to fight Sergei Pavlovich for the interim title (co-main event to the first meeting of Pereira and Prochazka). Since winning that bout in such an explosive fashion, the Brit has been unsuccessful in securing a unification fight with Jones. It now must defend his interim belt against Blaydes in Manchester instead. 

Aspinall was cage-side at UFC 300 when Pereira first floated the idea of a move to heavyweight, and shortly after the fight, he posted a memorable photo on his Instagram account of himself staring at the Brazilian exiting the cage. Given that the next UFC pay-per-view event was due to take place in Rio De Janeiro and lacked a little star power, speculation was rife that Aspinall and Pereira could be drafted into a short-notice main event to save the day.

While that fight never came to fruition, the respective timelines of all the fighters in this equation would place Aspinall in a favorable position to be paired with Pereira. If Aspinall sees off the challenge of Curtis Blaydes at UFC 304 this month, a fight with Pereira would provide a high-profile payday while he awaits closure on the Jones-Miocic story. If Blaydes manages to upset the apple cart and emerge victorious in Manchester, he slides directly into the conversation for that super fight and the heavyweight title.


The rivalry between ‘The Last Stylebender’ and Pereira feels like it hasn’t yet been fully resolved. ‘Poatan’ picked up two wins against Adesanya in the kickboxing ring back in 2016 and 2017, then shocked the world by finishing the Nigerian-Kiwi to win the UFC middleweight title in November of 2022 despite being a relative newcomer to professional mixed martial arts at the time.

Adesanya gained his revenge by knocking Pereira out in an immediate rematch just months later, after which the Brazilian moved to 205lbs. Although the two are no longer in the same division and temporarily out of each other’s crosshairs, there is certainly scope for a rubber match at some point in the future.

A lot will depend on the outcome of Adesanya’s upcoming middleweight title fight against Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 305 in August. This event will be his first appearance inside the Octagon in almost a year since he lost his belt to Sean Strickland. Should Adesanya be successful in his quest to regain the title he held for three years between 2019 and 2022, it’s likely he’ll remain at middleweight to defend it against Strickland.

Should Adesanya lose to Du Plessis, however, he might be tempted into another venture that will cost up to 205 pounds. His previous testing of the light heavyweight waters against Jan Blachowicz in 2021 ended in defeat due to the Pole’s physicality and wrestling dominance. Still, a far more stylistically suitable match-up with Pereira (and the prospect of becoming a two-weight world champion) could light his fire.

With each triumph, Alex Pereira defies expectations and solidifies his legacy as one of the sport's most versatile and dynamic champions. No matter who stands across from him next, fans can be sure that 'Poatan' will bring his unparalleled skill and unyielding spirit to the Octagon, leaving us all on the edge of our seats.