Alex Perez not surprised Steve Erceg got UFC title shot, despite Muhammad Mokaev’s ‘tougher resume’

LAS VEGAS – Many were puzzled to see Steve Erceg get a title shot against UFC flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja – but not Alex Perez.

Although he might not agree with it, Perez (24-8 MMA, 6-4 UFC) understands very well why Erceg ended up getting a title fight over Muhammad Mokaev, who many, including Perez, thought was more deserving of the opportunity.

“If you look at resumes, Mokaev has a tougher resume, I believe,” Perez said at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN 55 media day. “He’s fought longer in the UFC, but he’s also fought Tim Elliot, who fought Demetrious (Johnson), and I fought (Alexandre) Pantoja and Deiveson (Figueiredo), and he beat me.

“But in this sport, you’re just as good as your last performance. It doesn’t matter what you did. Like I said, Steve went out there and did a good job and fought a ranked guy and beat him, then Alessandro (Costa), then comes in and finishes Matt Schnell. That’s very impressive.”

Mokaev has twice as many wins in the UFC as Erceg. Unlike Erceg, he’s unbeaten in his MMA career and has wins over two former UFC title challengers – Perez and Tim Elliott. Yet, the man fighting Pantoja in the main event of UFC 301 in Brazil on May 4 is Erceg, not Mokaev.

Perez, who returns this Saturday against Matheus Nicolau (19-4-1 MMA, 7-2 UFC) in the main event of UFC on ESPN 55 (ESPN, ESPN+), believes it’s more than just having a better resume, it’s also about putting on dominant fights and getting finishes – something Perez feels Mokaev hasn’t done.

“Mokaev went out there, and I was coming off the couch after a year layoff, and it was hard fought,” Perez said. “I thought I won the fight. Obviously, the judges didn’t see it that way, and I can’t disagree with them, but it wasn’t his best performance. It’s also a business. I understand this guy is going in there and putting people to sleep, so why not give him a shot. It’s a business, but it’s also fighting, and you’re just as good as your last performance.”

As far as the fight between Pantoja and Erceg, Perez believes the champion will retain his belt even though he finds Erceg a formidable challenge.

“I give it to Pantoja because of the experience, but Steve is tough because he’s got crisp boxing and Pantoja has shown to get hurt,” Perez said. “Steve, I’ve seen him during fight week, and he’s a big dud, and I think I’m big for the division. He’s tall and has very good boxing. It’s hard today if he’s good on the ground because no one has taken him there. I’ve never done studies on him, so I don’t if he’s been taken down, but he’s looking like a stud. But Pantoja with the experience, and he’s got a great camp in American Top Team, I’m going to go with that.”

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie