Exclusive: Alex Perez Details Why Steve Erceg Got UFC Title Shot Over Muhammad Mokaev

The former title challenger weighs in on what's going on at flyweight.

Mokaev Ufc 301
Alex Perez - (via @mokaev_muhammad, @ufc - Instagram)

The UFC threw a bit of curveball to the flyweight division.

In an unexpected announcement, the promotion revealed that champion Alexandre Pantoja would be defending his title against the #10-ranked Steve Erceg. The title fight is scheduled to headline UFC 301 on May 4th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

A couple of contenders offered to make the quick turnaround, including Brandon Royval and Muhammad Mokaev, who are both coming off wins earlier this year. However, the reigning and defending Pantoja would pick a wildcard in Western Australia’s Erceg instead.

Mokaev’s Resume “Stronger” Than Erceg’s, Says Perez

The undefeated Mokaev thought he’d be a shoe-in for the next title shot as he’s currently 6-0 in the UFC. But, a somewhat lackluster performance against former title challenger Alex Perez last month probably got in the way of that happening.

Perez, who is right behind Mokaev in the rankings at #8, gives his thoughts on his former foe’s title shot snub.

“If you look at resumes, yes, Mokaev has beat 2 guys that fought for the title, me and Tim Elliott. Resume is a little bit stronger than Steve [Erceg],” Perez told Middle Easy. “Steve comes in, beat a ranked guy, beat Alessandro [Costa], and just beat another ranked guy. But, it’s always as good as your last performance.”

Perez: “It’s How You Perform… Sick Or Not”

Following his latest win, Mokaev said he fought Perez while sick at UFC Vegas 87, still managing to get his hand raised by unanimous decision. Despite how he might’ve felt in the fight, Perez says “The Punisher’s” performance ultimately costed him in the title shot race against Erceg.

“Mokaev has great, great talent. Great fighter, great everything, but I’m basically coming off a year layoff. and I pushed him. Whether he was sick or not, I heard he was sick— [that] sucks. But, once you step in that cage, you’re a 100% in people’s eyes,” Perez continued. “People don’t know that you’re going in there hurt, now it’s sick, whatever. It’s how you perform. It doesn’t matter if you’re sick or not.”

The Argument For Steve Erceg

Erceg, on the other hand, showed out on the same exact night Mokaev and Perez collided, racking up style points with a walk-off KO of a lower-ranked contender. 

“So, I feel like Steve did more just because he finished Matt Schnell. If Mokaev would’ve gone in there and finished me, I think he would’ve got the title shot. You’re as good as your last performance, and UFC is also a business. People don’t get that. This guy is coming out finishing guys… Mokaev has gone to decision, I think, every fight or close to.”

Perez Is Confident Mokaev Will Make It To A Title Fight Sooner Or Later

While Muhammad Mokaev may have been passed up on the title opportunity this time around, Perez says the 23 year-old’s time will come eventually.

“You’re as good as your last fight. Mokaev will fight for a title,” he added. “I’m hoping I get a rematch. But, he’ll fight for the title. Like, he’s a great talent. If he keeps winning, he’ll fight for a title for sure.”

Prediction For Pantoja vs. Erceg

As for who wins the next title fight between Alexandre Pantoja and the aforementioned Steve Erceg, Alex Perez believes well heard ‘And Still’ at UFC 301 in a few weeks from now.

“You gotta go with the champ,” Perez said. “He’s been able to beat everybody in front of him. If you look at his records, [he’s] like 10-o against the top 10. So, I don’t blame him for wanting to fight someone new. But, Steve’s dangerous. Pantoja has been hurt before, like he got hurt by Matt Schnell and Steve has great boxing. He’s very long, great boxing. He knows how to use that range, but I gotta go with the experience. I’ll go with Pantoja on that one.”

Watch our full interview with Alex Perez below. The former UFC title challenger headlines UFC Vegas 91 against top contender Matheus Nicolau on Apr. 27.

Published on April 19, 2024 at 4:16 pm
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