UFC Champion At 33: Alexandre Pantoja Proves Age Is Just A Number

Old dog... new tricks.

UFC Champion At 33: Alexandre Pantoja Proves Age Is Just A Number

Image: Getty

Alexandre Pantoja took the long road to becoming UFC champion. He began his career at 17 years old and didn’t get a UFC belt wrapped around his waist until last year when he was already 33 years old.

A well-travelled veteran fighter, Pantoja made his professional MMA debut at the age of 17 via the Hikari Fight promotion in Brazil. At age 24, Pantoja won his first belt when he captured the RFA flyweight championship. 8 months later, he became the inaugural AXS TV flyweight super champion. 

Pantoja first arrived in the UFC via TUF 24 in 2016 when the promotion gathered 16 flyweight champions from all over the world to compete in a tournament where a UFC flyweight title shot awaited the winner. The then 26-year-old was invited to the tournament because he was the RFA flyweight champion. Pantoja submitted future UFC flyweight champion Brandon Moreno in his first bout of the competition. 

RELATED: Alexandre Pantoja Hits Prime Fighting Weight Ahead Of UFC 301

Pantoja defeated former interim flyweight title challenger Kai Kara-France in the quarterfinals. However, the Brazilian’s run was halted in the semifinals by Hiromasa Ogikubo. 

Despite the setback, the UFC signed Pantoja and the Brazilian opened his UFC career with an impressive 5-1 mark. At the age of 29, Pantoja faced a surging Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 240 in his biggest assignment so far. Figueiredo defeated Pantoja via unanimous decision but according to Alexandre, that bout was the crucial moment of his MMA career.

“You can’t go into the fight and give everything; you need to play the game,” Pantoja said. “You need takedowns, and you need to score all the time. You need to know that you don’t go into every fight and fight like a bulldog. It’s not like that. If you want to be a champion, you need to fight very smart.”

Image: Getty

Since his loss to Askar Askarov at UFC Fight Island 2 in 2020, a smarter Pantoja emerged. He picked up three consecutive victories over contenders Manel Kape, Brandon Royval, and Alex Perez to earn his first crack at the UFC flyweight title. Pantoja went on to defeat rival Brandon Moreno for the third time at UFC 290. Finally, at the age of 33, Alexandre fulfilled his dream of winning a championship in the premier mixed martial arts promotion on the planet.

On May 4th, the now 34-year-old champion will make the second defence of the UFC Flyweight championship when he faces No. 10 ranked Steve Erceg from Australia at the main event of UFC 301 at the Farmassi Arena in Pantoja’s hometown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.