Alexandre Pantoja’s Next Fight Could Be His Biggest Yet

All eyes on Rio...

Alexandre Pantoja’s Next Fight Could Be His Biggest Yet

Image: Getty

UFC flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja is set to defend his title for the second time at UFC 301. The 34-year-old champion will face Steve Erceg in the event’s headline fight.

Alexandre Pantoja hails from the municipality of Arraial do Cabo in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He captured the belt by defeating Brandon Moreno via split decision at UFC 290 last 8 July 2023. Pantoja successfully defended the title by outpointing Brandon Royval at UFC 296.

With the UFC 301 pay-per-view event scheduled to take place at the Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Pantoja was the choice to headline the event, not only because the local fighter boasts a UFC belt, but because the other Brazilian UFC champion, Alex ‘Poatan’ Pereira, fought in the main event of UFC 300 just last 13 April 2024 in Las Vegas.

RELATED: Alexandre Pantoja Gears Up For UFC 301 Showdown With Steve Erceg

Image: UFC

Like Pantoja, Pereira wanted to headline the UFC 301 event. But because the promotion needed him for the bigger centennial event, it was Pantoja who got the nod to headline the next card in Brazil. Initially, the UFC was hoping that Pantoja would face Moreno a third time in the event.

The Assassin Baby fought Brandon Royval last February and had he won the bout, he would most certainly have challenged Pantoja for the gold at UFC 301. But Royval stunned Moreno in a split-decision win, leaving the UFC with a dilemma.

“I’m willing to prove my worth against anyone the UFC chooses,” said Pantoja last month. ” I don’t have a problem with giving a shot to lower-ranked guy. If the UFC wants to bring over champions from Shooto. LFA, or pair me against Mokaev, if he beats Perez on Saturday, I’ll be ready. The most important thing for me is being able to defend my belt in my city, Rio de Janeiro.”

A few days after Pantoja’s statement, the UFC booked him a fight against Australia’s own Steve Erceg. The 28-year-old hails from Perth, Australia and is the No. 10 ranked flyweight contender in the UFC. 

The fighter known as ‘Astro Boy’ began his career in the Australian circuit, fighting for promotions like Hex Fighting Series and Eternal MMA. After compiling a 9-1 record and making one successful title defence of the Eternal MMA flyweight belt, he signed a contract with the UFC.

Erceg won his first three UFC bouts, including a 2 March 2024 knockout of veteran Matt Schnell. With the other top flyweight contenders out of the running, he got the biggest call of his life and will challenge Pantoja for the UFC flyweight belt in the main event of UFC 301 which will be held at the Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro.