UFC Champ Alexandre Pantoja Says Next Challenger Is ‘So Lucky’ to Get Title Shot

ufc alexandre pantoja

Getty UFC Champ Alexandre Pantoja thinks Steve Erceg is "so lucky" to have gotten a title shot right now.

The UFC recently announced a surprising main event for UFC 301.

It’s certainly no surprise that they would have Flyweight Champion Alexandre Pantoja headline a card in his home country of Brazil, but his opponent isn’t one that was believed to be in position to contend for the title.

He’ll be taking on Steve Erceg after Erceg knocked out Matt Schnell on March 2.

Erceg is currently ranked 10th in the division according to the UFC’s fighter rankings and is getting his shot over some names that are much more accomplished.

In a March 18 interview with MMA Junkie, Pantoja revealed that he thinks Erceg is lucky to be getting the shot, but he also took some credit for opening up this opportunity for his opponent.

“I fought with the No. 1 (Royval) two times, the No. 2 (Moreno) three times, No. 3 right now is Amir Albazi, who has an injury. I fought Kai Kara-France before, Manel Kape, Alex Perez, Matt Schnell, I fought everyone. I think that guy is so lucky because all these things happened.”

Pantoja Cleared a Path

It has been almost eight years since Pantoja made his debut in the UFC as part of season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter.

In the time since, he has had 14 official fights in the organization along with three exhibition matches.

Those 17 fights have included matchups against many of the organization’s top names in the division.

He has had official matchups against four of the current top 10 fighters in the division and an exhibition against another member of the top 10.

Pantoja holds a record of 8-0 in those matchups. Five of those wins have come in the last three years.

That left the UFC to work their way down the rankings a bit to find a fresh matchup for their flyweight champ.

It seems to have led them to a title challenger with limited experience in the organization.

Erceg’s UFC Resume

Contrary to Pantoja, Erceg hasn’t been in the UFC for very long.

He actually made his debut in the organization less than a year ago, fighting for the UFC for the first time in June of 2023.

However, he has managed to make an impression during his short time in the organization.

That debut fight came on short notice against David Dvorak and Erceg entered as a sizable underdog. He didn’t look the part as he bounced back from losing round one to win the next two rounds and take a unanimous decision.

His next fight came in November. That fight saw him matched up against Alessandro Costa, who had split his first two fights in the organization.

Erceg also won that one by unanimous decision.

Then came the matchup against Schnell, who was actually the fighter he replaced in his UFC debut.

The knockout sent a message to the rest of the flyweight division that Erceg is the real deal.

However, this title shot still seems like it’s coming pretty quickly. It’s not unheard of for the UFC to give somebody a title after three fights. They did it with Alex Pereira, but he also knocked out future champ Sean Strickland in one of those fights.

This also isn’t the lowest ranking we’ve ever seen for a title challenger. Dan Henderson was ranked 13th when he fought Michael Bisping for the title.

There are definitely fighters with better cases for this title shot than Erceg, but it won’t matter if he can get the job done on May 4.

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