Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Following Figueiredo’s incredible first-round finish of Joseph Benavidez in the UFC Fight Island 2 headliner, the conversations began throughout the MMA space on which surging 125-pound contender should be next.
There seems to be three fighters in the mix: Perez, Brandon Moreno, and Askar Askarov. Perez has finished his previous two opponents – Jordan Espinosa and Jussier Formiga – and in his opinion, that should put him on the top of the list.
“If you look at all three of our resumes, Moreno has fought Kai (Kara-France) and Jussier, both decisions,” Perez said on What the Heck. “Not saying they weren’t exciting fights, he went to a decision twice with two ranked guys.
“I fought two ranked guys, and it doesn’t matter what they were ranked, because I was ranked at 25, went to 35 because they were cutting the division, came back and I wasn’t ranked. So I started from the bottom and built myself up. Technically, I beat three guys who were ranked: Mark (De La Rosa), finished Espinosa who was ranked above me, and finished Jussier.”
Moreno is unbeaten since his return to the UFC. “The Assassin Baby” came back to the promotion at UFC Mexico City this past September where he fought Askarov. While many believe Moreno won that fight, it was scored a draw.
For Askarov, he also competed at UFC Fight Island 2 and defeated Alexandre Pantoja via unanimous decision to remain undefeated in his pro career.
Perez has a lot of good things to say about both of his fellow contenders, but he just feels his resume stacks up better due to his method of victories.
“Askarov, he had a draw with Moreno, fought and beat Elliott, and now he beat Pantoja. Hasn’t finished anybody,” Perez explained. “He hasn’t finished anybody in his last three fights, same with Moreno. They were exciting fights, but I’m the one going out there finishing guys.
“I’m not saying they don’t deserve it but if you go by the last three fights, we all have a decision in the first one, I had a finish when they had decisions in the second fight, and same with the third fight – and I finished guys that were ranked above me. I’m finishing guys at 125, and that’s what people want to see.”
Of course, we can’t have a division in the UFC moving forward without a little drama. One former world champion has expressed his interest in dropping down to the flyweight division in Cody Garbrandt.
The “No Love” name has been thrown around as a potential option for Figueiredo. It’s an option that Perez merely scoffs at.
“Cody’s not a ‘25er,” Perez stated. “He said he’s going to drop down, but has he dropped down? No, so you can’t talk about it if he hasn’t made the weight. I don’t care what you do at home. I’ve seen people make weight at home and then come in overweight for a fight. You have to step on the official scale, make weight and fight. Aldo did it. He made the weight and everyone thought he won against Moraes, and they gave him a title shot.
“Cody has not dropped down, so I don’t know why people keep bringing up that name.”
With the title win for Figueiredo coming so quickly, many believe the UFC will attempt to turn him around soon. In a recent Instagram post from Moreno, Figueiredo responded with a virtual acceptance of his challenge and suggested November as a time to defend his title.
Perez is willing to face anybody the UFC puts in front of him en route to a title opportunity. However, if the powers that be need someone to get ready fast, he’s ready.
“I haven’t gotten anything yet,” Perez said about his title aspirations. “For me, I think Deiveson is going to take a little break [because] he went through a lot with the COVID thing, the weight, the cut and the travel. So I don’t know how long they’re gonna wait with him to fight. I’m down to fight whenever. I’ve made weight in three weeks to make 25. It sucked, but I made it.
“It’s a little easier because Calfornia is re-shutting down—no more Korean barbecue—so it’ll be easier to make the weight. I’m ready whenever. I’m in shape, I’m on Fight Island training, running still and hitting pads. We have our jiu-jitsu coach here so I’m rolling with him so I’m staying ready. You never know when the call is going to come. Could be last minute.”