Erik Perez was interested in re-signing with the UFC, but Combate Americas’ offer simply was better.
“Goyito,” who became a free agent after a UFC Fight Night 98 win over Felipe Arantes in November 2016, signed with the Hispanic promotion last week after a lengthy stint as a free agent. The bantamweight was removed from the UFC’s roster in January, per its online database, but until recently, it wasn’t clear whether Perez had been released or his contract had come to an end.
Perez was a free agent for nearly a year because he tore a knee ligament in the Arantes fight. He was focused on recovering and returning to full health before seriously weighing his options for the next chapter of his MMA career.
He also entered free agency at a time when many fighters who opted to fight out their contracts weren’t getting re-signed, presumably because WME-IMG was still getting adjusted to being the new UFC owner. But he was never concerned about what could go wrong as a free agent. He was always optimistic he find a new home.
“For me, no matter where I’m fighting, as long as I’m fighting, I’m fine,” Perez told BloodyElbow.com. “UFC, Combate Americas, another organization ... I’m good. I’ll fight wherever the guys put me. It was not a big deal to be a free agent. It was OK, because at that time, my knee was bad. I was no good. So I didn’t care about that.”
After knee rehabilitation, Perez started negotiating with Combate Americas a few months ago. The promotion had an appealing offer Perez could not refuse, even though the 27-year-old wanted to go back to the UFC. Perez signed a four-fight deal that lasts one year with Combate Americas.
“I was really interested in renewing with the UFC, but the proposal from Combate was really good,” Perez said through a translator. “And it gives me another opportunity to do other things besides fighting.
“I will help Combate become one of the biggest leagues.”
Combate Americas has held two shows in Mexico, and being able to frequently fight in his home country was one of the most intriguing aspects of the deal for Perez, who was born in Guadalupe. The company is hosting a one-night, eight-man bantamweight tournament in Cancun on Saturday evening, and it will return to Mexico for the fourth time next January. Perez is expected to make his debut on that card.
“My English isn’t very good,” Perez laughed.
Perez has commentated for Combate Americas on its Mexican broadcast since January, so signing on as a fighter seems to have been a natural fit. His active relationship with the promotion led to the fight deal being made, he said.
“I really liked the way the people worked there. It was like a family,” he said. “It’s what I like about Combate. It’s why it was my decision to go to Combate.”
Thanks to his notoriety from his UFC career, Perez is probably Combate Americas’ biggest signing ever, and he could eventually become the face of the company. He agreed with that, but said before there are any more talks of him being a Combate Americas star, he needs to fight first.
“For now, I’m just another fighter,” Perez said. “I need to go build myself and win a fight. I need to get to the cage and knock a guy out. After that, after I win the title, maybe I’m the new face for Combate. Right now, I’m just another fighter. I prepare myself every day to be the No. 1 in Combate.”
Perez is not ruling out a future comeback to the UFC. In fact, he would be in favor of that if it makes sense and if he is “given the opportunity.” He still has many years in the sport ahead of him and anything can happen years down the road, he said. But for now, he’s focused on his new career in Combate Americas and plans to make the most of it.
“I think the talk with Sean Shelby was good, and UFC’s not mad with me,” he said. “I just [went to Combate Americas] for the opportunity. I’m gonna be the No. 1 fighter in the world one day. Maybe in Combate, maybe in another organization. My goal is to be a better fighter every day, and to be a champion.”
For more Combate Americas coverage, check out BloodyElbow.com’s interview with Ricky Palacios, who participates in the one-night, eight-man bantamweight tournament at Copa Combate on Saturday.