Alex Perez is a good guy. A mature guy, not the type of guy who rages against the MMA Gods for some of the worst luck a fighter can have in recent years. No, Alex Perez takes everything that comes at him, shakes it off, and keeps moving forward.
“The biggest thing I've learned is this,” said the flyweight contender, who faces Manel Kape this Saturday in San Antonio. “Just control what you can control, and I'm doing that. The fight's going to play out the way the fight's going to play out. You make one mistake and that can be it in the fight, so I'm just doing what I can.”
Perez is talking about the back-to-back losses to Deiveson Figueiredo and Alexandre Pantoja that have taken up the last 28 months of his career. I’m talking not just about the defeats, but the injuries, the opponent withdrawals and all those fun little sidebars that have limited him to those two fights since the tail-end of 2020.
“Sometimes I’ve got to tell myself I'm not as young as I used to be and I can't train as crazy as I used to,” laughs the ancient 31-year-old. “I'm a war horse and I think that's what gets me in trouble sometimes, where I'll be dead tired and instead of taking a break, I go out there and make this workout happen. That's usually how I get injured just because I don't want to take that night off.”
Earlier this year, it was New Zealand’s Kai Kara-France who got bit by the injury bug, leaving Perez without a February bout, and luckily, the Kape fight was put together quickly, and through it all, the Californian remains in the 125-pound Top 10, and perhaps two wins away from being in the title picture for the second time. But Perez remains focused strictly on the work, and not what a good night at the office will give him.
“I've never really worried about the title,” he said. “Even when I got the title shot (against Figueiredo in 2020), it was kind of like an, ‘All right, it's my turn’ kind of thing. I just work, put my head down, and if it happens, it happens. I'm not a person to go out there and call out for the next title shot; I'm not a person go out there and complain about it. I'm just going to keep working when I win this fight. I'm just going to, like I said, put my head down and keep working and then the title shot will eventually come.”
It's a veteran’s mindset, but also the mindset of someone who doesn’t expect his fighting career to be the final stop in his life’s journey. Perez is smart enough to know that he can’t fight forever, so he’s preparing for the next chapter, not just for himself, but for his son. So while there have only been two fights in the last two-plus years, he hasn’t stopped working, with his latest venture being his Acai Republic shop in Orange.
“I know when I was younger, I was thinking, ‘Man, once I make this much money, blah, blah, blah,’ that the money's still going to be coming in at the same rate with the same big paydays. I mean it's not a bad thing; people gamble on themselves and it's not wrong to gamble on yourself. I think we all do it but, at some point in time, you’ve got to realize, I'm getting older, this is going to end pretty soon. And, for me, I don't want to struggle later on in life. I want to give my son the best life I can. My mom and my stepdad gave me everything I wanted and more, and I want to do the same for my son. So I’m setting up my future. I have a goal to retire, so I'm working hard now. I tell people all the time, I'd rather be broke now and rich later than the opposite, be rich now and broke later. So I got that mindset. I'm just working for my future.”
The future is now, and Perez knows it. A win on Saturday gets him back on track for the even bigger fights at 125 pounds, and if he gets them, he has the experience to know how to win them. Then, there will be more than Acai shops in the coming years. And he’s fine with that.
“I'm not scared of hard work,” he said. “I've always worked hard my whole life. I'm not scared to go flip burgers if I have to, but I don't want to. So I’d rather do everything I can now to prevent that.”
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