Michel Pereira is unapologetic about his unique approach to fighting, and he has no plans on changing what has worked for him so far, even in the face of defeat. That’s why he views his co-main event slot at UFC Fight Night 167 as a chance to rectify the wrongs of his upset loss in September and to prove to the mixed martial arts world that it was just a bump in his road to prominence in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight division.
Pereira, 26, burst onto the UFC scene in May with a style that mirrored video game stylings more than traditional Octagon tactics. It’s been a style that has proven mostly fruitful throughout his career. However, UFC Fight Night 158 was not a fruitful night. Rise Fighting Championship’s former lightweight champion Tristan Connelly made his promotional debut and upended notable betting favorite Pereira on just four days’ notice.
The Brazilian’s style is predicated on explosive techniques that require a great deal of energy – energy Pereira seemed to lack in the second and third rounds of the fight. It was at this point that his Canadian counterpart took over. The momentum shift in the fight, and the negative result, frustrated Pereira because he believes he knows exactly why they occurred.
“I was ready to fight with any type of fighter,” Pereira told Sherdog, “but my weight got in the way, and I lost the fight because of that. Everything was on schedule, everything was fine, but the person who [helps with the weight-cut] was not with me. He couldn't get the visa. I always hit the weight, but in this fight, everything was going wrong. I had a lot of stress taking the weight [off] all week, alone. [It] was very difficult for me. I tried to do what was possible, but I was not able to correct all the mistakes. I couldn't beat the weight and it hindered my performance.”
For a fighter with a love-it-or-hate-it style amongst observers of the sport, Pereira quickly felt the backlash from his detractors after his disappointing performance.
“I was criticized a lot [for] my last fight,” he explained. “A lot of people said a lot of bad things without knowing what happened. I am a guy who trains hard and prepares well, but mistakes happen. Everything was going wrong the day [of weigh-ins], and on the day of the fight. We are human and we make mistakes. But I’ve corrected all these mistakes for my next fight, and will be able to give a show to everyone.”
The hate from fans has only strengthened his desire to continue doing what got him to the UFC in the first place, especially since he feels that it’s a gift from above and that he has worked many years to refine.
“I worked hard to have that style. Many say that I am making fun but that is not [true],” said Pereira. “I have been fighting that way since the beginning of my career, and trying to improve my style every day. I never made fun of any fighter. It’s just my style and the way I think I should fight. It was a gift that God gave me.”
These heavenly gifts are why the ever-confident fighter says he was given the co-main event slot against UFC stalwart Diego Sanchez. Pereira asserts that his star potential and showmanship are undeniable, and that the UFC has to highlight one of their preeminent “showmen” even after a defeat.
“The UFC already understood that I will be the champion of this division, and that I will be the new showman of the promotion,” he proclaimed. “They know that I have the potential for this, and I have already shown that I have the capacity to be the [highlight] of events.”
Ahead of their bout in the Santa Ana Star Center, it is clear that Sanchez will enter the bout with a considerable experience advantage over “Demolidor.” While it is certainly true that “The Nightmare” is the more experienced competitor with 43 professional bouts under his belt—32 inside the Octagon—Pereira does not believe that Sanchez’ experience will be an advantage. Indeed, Pereira contends that there is not a single area where Sanchez poses a threat to him.
“I don't care if he is experienced. I am very young, but I have a lot of experience, too,” Pereira asserted. “I’m much more prepared than him, much more focused and willing to give a show to the UFC audience around the world. His experience will not stand out from my desire to win. I do not see any problem for me in relation to Sanchez. I am better than him in all areas. Wherever he wants to fight with me, I have the ability to fight with him. I have the potential to surprise him in any area. Even in the areas he thinks is his better.”
Don’t take the Scorpion Fighting System athlete’s bravado as disrespect. He admires what Sanchez has done in the sport. He just views this fight as MMA’s version of “out with the old, in with the new.”
“Diego Sanchez is a big name in the UFC,” Pereira acknowledged, “he helped to grow [the organization with] exciting fights and the audience liked it a lot. I have a lot of respect for him, because he is UFC's old guard. But he is now in my way, and my time has come. I'm the new generation. Your time has passed. It's my time to shine in the UFC.”