It was a tough road to get to UFC Vegas 34 for flyweight contender Alexandre Pantoja, but he did it.
Following a slick submission win over Brandon Royval at the event, the Brazilian shared an emotional story about an injury that almost prevented him from fighting.
Although Pantoja was able to perform and win in the end, he explained to Combate that he was gravely injured a month before the fight. To make matters even worse, one of his main coaches was also hospitalized during the time, which created a lot of uncertainty for Alexandre at the gym. Fortunately it all worked out in the end.
“About a month ago I suffered a very serious injury,” Pantoja said. “We thought I wasn’t going to be able to fight. I train hard. I like a lot of intensity in my training sessions. I feel for my sparring partners, they know I always spar hard. During that month, I had to train much less hard in order not to make my injury worse and be forced out of the fight. My main coach was also hospitalized. Thank God he’s well now and was able to be in my corner. It made a huge difference in the fight.
“During fight week I also had a bad case of the flu,” he continued. “I was taking medicine coming into the fight. I had a troubled weight cut because of that, but I didn’t have problems making weight. All of that made my win even more meaningful and gave me an even stronger desire to win.”
After overcoming both the injury, the flu, and the weight cut, Pantoja had only one feeling inside of him: gratitude. Although he was not yet certain of the win against, just the sensation of going through all the ordeals and making it to fight night already felt like a win for the Brazilian.
“It was not just a win in the fight,” Pantoja said. “It was a win from the moment I got here, made weight and knew I was going to fight. All the time I kept saying ‘Thank you, God. For being here today. For having this fight, for my trainer being here with me.’ It was a strong, emotional moment. I would go on to cry in the shower a little afterwards. It was big emotion not only being able to fight, but to win. It all felt very emotional to me.”
The win over Royval put Pantoja (24-5) on a two-fight winning streak, with a unanimous decision victory over Manel Kape prior to this one, back in February. Before that, the 31-year-old had suffered a unanimous decision defeat to fellow contender Askar Askarov, in July 2020.