NEW YORK — Alex Pereira’s manager probably isn’t doing his job very well if, in Pereira’s next contract with the UFC, he isn’t guaranteed a fight at Madison Square Garden. For the third time in the last three Novembers, Pereira has scored a headline-grabbing knockout.
On Nov. 6, 2021, at UFC 268 in The Garden, Pereira introduced himself to UFC fans with a flying knee knockout of Andreas Michailidis at 18 seconds of the second round.
On Nov. 12, 2022, at UFC 281, Pereira won the middleweight championship with a dramatic fifth-round knockout of Israel Adesanya.
And on Saturday in the main event of UFC 295, Pereira became just the eighth UFC fighter to win a belt in two different weight classes as well as the quickest to ever do it when he finished Jiri Prochazka with a lightning bolt of a left uppercut at 4:08 of the second round.
Pereira did it in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,039 that once again included former President Donald J. Trump. The crowd paid a live gate of $12.43 million to see the show, giving the UFC Nos. 1, 2 and 3 on The Garden’s largest gate list.
Pereira and his people aren’t the only ones who want the UFC to be in The Garden more often.
“They’d have us here every weekend if we could do it,” UFC CEO Dana White said, chuckling.
After Saturday’s show, it was pretty obvious why.
“This is my house now,” Pereira said.
UFC 295 was a wild card littered with crazy knockouts and submissions with great fights up and down the card, yet none of them could manage to top Pereira’s feat.
Tom Aspinall did his thing and looked great in doing it. He won the interim heavyweight title in improbable fashion, knocking out Sergei Pavlovich in 69 seconds, a result that nearly blew the roof off the house.
At the post-fight news conference, referring to Pavlovich’s fearsome punching power, Aspinall said, “I was nervous. To be honest, I was very scared backstage.”
Yet, he channeled his nerves and performed like a veteran who had a full camp. Rather, he took the fight around two weeks out while he was at his vacation home in Wales. He had a bad back that he said was still bothering him Saturday. And yet he iced perhaps the most ferocious heavyweight in the UFC in barely over a minute.
Nazim Sadykhov and Viacheslav Borschev put on a Fight of the Night battle that ended in a majority draw. It was the second round that folks will talk about for years, given Borschev was kicked in the head and all but out. He survived nearly two minutes of pounding after the head kick and yet came out and took the final round.
Diego Lopes brutally iced Pat Sabatini. Jessica Andrade drilled Mackenzie Dern.
On and on it went, but the star of the show was Pereira.
He was inducted into the Glory Kickboxing Hall of Famer earlier in the week after winning two championships there. After transitioning to MMA, he fought four times, going 3-1, before getting signed to the UFC.
And on Saturday, in his seventh UFC fight, he won his second weight class championship by putting Prochazka to sleep.
Aspinall seems like the young vet, and he won his title in his eighth UFC fight.
“[Pereira's] another very scary human being,” Aspinall said.
Pereira is hardly ferocious except when there is a ring or a cage and he has gloves on his hand. He’s a light-hearted easy going guy who loves to eat and play practical jokes on his friends.
But he’s accomplished more in seven UFC fights than many do in a lifetime. Only eight fighters have won belts in two weight classes: Randy Couture, B.J. Penn, Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Georges St-Pierre, Amanda Nunes, Henry Cejudo and now Pereira.
He did it quicker than any of them, winning it in his seventh fight. And in seven UFC fights, he has wins over four men who had or have held UFC belts. He was 1-1 in two bouts with Adesanya, which flipped the title twice. He also has wins over reigning middleweight champion Sean Strickland and former light heavyweight champions Prochazka and Jan Blachowicz.
He’s got the frame to one day move to heavyweight, so the sky is the limit as to what he could accomplish.
He lost his MMA debut in 2015 while he was still kickboxing. But he conceded he wasn’t sure how he’d adapt.
“In the beginning, I didn’t even know if I could support myself [in MMA],” Pereira said. “But there were a lot of good people who helped me and kept me motivated and here I am.”
He’s 36 and doesn’t have the lengthy runway to run up a bunch of title defenses, but he’s a two-division champion and has the ability to win in a third.
And given how quickly he’s improved in other areas of MMA, it’s likely he’ll be here for a while.