Steve Erceg ‘devastated’ by UFC 301 title fight loss: ‘I blew it’

Steve Erceg is aware some ill-timed decision making likely cost him from leaving UFC 301 as new flyweight champion.

Just 11 months after making his promotional debut, Erceg (12-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) challenged Alexandre Pantoja (28-5 MMA, 12-3 UFC) for the title on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, coming up short by unanimous decision in a fight that ultimately decided by the fifth round.

Two of three judges had the fight knotted at two rounds each going into the final frame, where Erceg was doing well until being reversed on a takedown attempt. That allowed Pantoja to take the round and close the fight strong.

“I really thought if I could get him down I would eat up the time on the ground and make him even more tired,” Erceg told FULL SEND MMA in the aftermath of UFC 301. “So I probably would’ve done the exact same thing. Next time I just need to be better at is.

“I thought it could’ve been 2-2 or 3-1 for him. I knew it was close in the third. I knew I was on the fourth. I fought to win the last round to put myself in the position that I give myself a chance. I blew it.”

Although few were giving Erceg much of a chance against Pantoja, who has defeated most of the ranked fights in the division, the reality was much different.

The Australian exceeded the expectations of many with his valiant performance, but Erceg isn’t here for moral victories. He wanted to leave Brazil with the belt, and admits it’s difficult not achieving that goal when it was within his grasp.

“I’m obviously devastated,” Erceg said. “Despite the short notice, or three fights in the UFC, I came to win. I thought I could do it. I thought I was finishing over the top, but he out-scrambled me. He did better, and I’ll be back.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 301.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie