Alexandre Pantoja’s Homecoming Title Defence Against Steve Erceg

The countdown to UFC 301 is on.

Alexandre Pantoja’s Homecoming Title Defence Against Steve Erceg


When the UFC booked its return to Rio de Janeiro, it was understood that a Brazilian would fight in the main event. With Alex Pereira fighting at UFC 300, Brazil’s ‘other’ champion, Alexandre Pantoja, was tasked to headline the event.

It was last February when the UFC announced that it would be coming to Brazil for a pay-per-view event. The event, UFC 301, is scheduled for 4 May 2024, at Rio de Janeiro’s Farmasi Arena. It will be the UFC’s 5th pay-per-view event this year and will mark the 12th time that the promotion is holding an event in Rio de Janeiro.

The last time UFC held an event in Rio was UFC 283 at the Jeunesse Arena on 21 January 2023, and the fight card was headlined by Brazilian Glover Teixeira fighting Jamahal Hill for the UFC light heavyweight title.

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Initially, six fights for the UFC 301 event were announced. But while the fight list was starting to get filled up, the UFC needed a main event. At first, UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira wanted to headline the Rio fight card, but because the promotion needed him for the much bigger centennial event in UFC 300, Poatan was out of the picture.

Pereira tried to bargain with the UFC to allow him to make a quick turnaround if he left UFC 300 unscathed, but the promotion wasn’t willing to risk one of its most popular fighters getting hurt by letting him make a 21-day turnaround.

And so the onus was given to the only other current UFC champion from Brazil, Alexandre Pantoja who hails from the municipality of Arraial do Cabo in Rio de Janeiro. Like Pereira, Pantoja wanted to defend his belt in front of his countrymen and with Pereira out of the equation, he was awarded the UFC 301 headliner by default.

Image: Getty

Pantoja won the UFC flyweight championship by defeating Brandon Moreno at UFC 290 last 8 July 2023. He beat Moreno via split decision to capture the UFC flyweight title. Last 16 December 2023, Pantoja made his first title defence at UFC 296 against Brandon Royval. The ‘Cannibal’ outlasted Royval and defeated him via unanimous decision to retain his belt.

But while it was a no-brainer to give Pantoja the privilege of headlining UFC 301, the question was who was going to be his opponent. Moreno was going to be a fantastic choice but after he was beaten by Royval at UFC Fight Night 237 last February 24th, it took the UFC a while to pick his next title challenger.

“Royval ruptured a ligament. and I just beat him. Manel Kape missed weight in his fight against Nicolau. Albazi has just had surgery. In fact, my division is one of the most competitive. If you put me against the 20th-ranked guy, he has a good chance of giving me a hard fight.” said Pantoja.

Last month, the UFC announced that Pantoja will defend the UFC flyweight championship against No. 10 ranked Steve Erceg. The Perth, Australia native is 3-0 since coming to the UFC. The 28-year-old knocked out No.11 Matt Schnell in his most recent bout at UFC Vegas 87.

A former Eternal MMA flyweight champion in Australia, Erceg has a record of 12-1 with two knockouts and six submission victories. UFC 301 will mark the first time that both Erceg and Pantoja will headline a UFC event.