Alexandre Pantoja Lauds Flyweight Division Depth After UFC 301 Win

Alexandre Pantoja was still bleeding when he rocked up to the UFC 301 post-fight presser. It was Saturday night, and the vibe was intense.

That cut on his head? A badge of honor, really. It came courtesy of a sharp elbow from Steve Erceg during a brutal five-rounder. Despite the blood, Pantoja’s spirit was unbroken. He held onto his flyweight title with a win by unanimous decision, right there in Rio de Janeiro’s buzzing Farmasi Arena.

“You’re not gonna take me out,” Pantoja declared, blood and all. “As long as I’m breathing, I’m in the fight.” He’d thought the bout would wrap up quicker. But Erceg, that tough Aussie, wasn’t going down without a scrap. “The moment that elbow hit, I knew it was serious. Tried to stem the flow with my hands, but hey, that’s the game.”

Erceg, the underdog, had clawed his way to this title shot with three wins in under a year with the UFC. A deserving challenger, no doubt. Yet, Pantoja was sure he’d edged it on the scorecards.

“I nailed the first three rounds, easy. The fourth might’ve slipped. But the fifth? All mine. Felt like a 4-1 victory,” Pantoja mused. “Facing a guy like him, from Australia, unknown but unyielding, that’s the essence of championship fighting.”

Pantoja sees Erceg’s rise as proof of the flyweight division’s depth. “This division’s a shark tank. Rank 10 can challenge the champ, and tonight proved it. It’s all about the grind here, no shortcuts.”

Saturday marked a milestone for Pantoja, becoming the first flyweight champ to defend his title twice since Demetrious Johnson in 2018. But for “The Cannibal,” it’s not about the records. “Stats are just numbers. My real legacy? That’s with my family, my kids.”

He reflected on the nature of the sport. “It’s like two different worlds. Here I am, happy with my family. And there’s Erceg, understandably gutted, surrounded by his loved ones. Second place is a tough pill to swallow in MMA.”

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