The Ultimate Fighter
It was the last week of training before Alex Perez made the trip to Philadelphia for a pivotal matchup with Mark De La Rosa this Saturday. But he wasn’t back home in California, all tunnel vision as he looks to rebound from a November loss to Joseph Benavidez.
Instead, Perez was in Nashville, helping get his teammate Marlon “Chito” Vera ready for his bout against Frankie Saenz.
Now that’s a good teammate and friend.
“Thank you, I try,” laughs Perez, who didn’t hesitate to break camp early to finish up in Tennessee with Vera and the rest of the Team Oyama squad.
“My head coach is out here, my teammates are out here, so why not come out here and train as well,” he said. “I might as well come out and get some work in and get adjusted to the time change and everything a week early.”
That’s the attitude of an old pro, and with 26 fights under his belt, Perez does fit that description, even though he only turned 27 on March 21. But even though he’s probably seen it all since his debut in 2011, he doesn’t feel that way about life as a prizefighter.
“There’s always people evolving and coming up with new techniques and stuff, so I haven’t seen it all,” he said. “I just worry about myself, and there’s still so much to see in the sport. But I did turn pro when I was young and I’ve been around the game for a long time. I’ve seen the older generation of fighters come through, and then some of these newer guys come through. I’ve been through two of the stages of MMA.”
And after paying his dues and learning his craft in the first stage, it’s time for him to make his move towards a belt in stage two. But will that move take place in the flyweight division where he won four of his five UFC bouts, or the bantamweight class that he makes his Octagon debut in on Saturday?
“We’ll wait and see what happens with this division,” he said of the 125-pound weight class. “It just depends. But ’25 or ’35, it’s still the same goal.”
So the move to bantamweight wasn’t something in the works for a while?
“They just offered me the fight,” Perez said. “I don’t turn down fights, so they offered me this fight at ’35 and I said, ‘All right, I’m down.’ You ask me one time, I’m gonna say yes, so I took the opportunity.”
Yet while it wasn’t planned, it is good for Perez to have a fresh start after the loss to Benavidez, his first in the UFC and first overall since 2016. But when asked what went wrong that night in Las Vegas, Perez can’t tell you.
“I don’t know,” he said. “We collided heads and that’s all I can remember. You can’t do anything about it.”
Well, he can move forward, and that’s just what he did. On Saturday, he gets a chance to put Benavidez in the rearview mirror and start a new winning streak. But last week, all he was thinking of was seeing his teammate get a win. And Vera just did that, stopping Saenz in the first round.
“It’s all about Chito,” Perez said last week in Nashville. “I’m getting my last couple of reps in and trying to keep my emotions in check until next week. Then it’s my turn to go.”