Even UFC middleweight berserker Alex Pereira gets scared sometimes.
The former GLORY two-division champion and newly-crowned UFC middleweight titleholder revealed to So Papos MMA that he was afraid to fight Sean Strickland prior to knocking him out at UFC 276, admitting that he felt intimidated when the latter locked eyes with him before their fight.
“Talking about my last fight, [Strickland] had 25 fights, was doing well in the UFC, ranked No. 4 in the middleweight rankings, he’s dangerous, he’s experienced,” Pereira said (h/t MMAMania). “I was scared, but when I heard him talk, I relaxed a little bit. He is a good fighter and an experienced one, but he was talking some stuff that didn’t make any sense. For a few months since the fight was booked I had fear, but it was under control. But I’ll tell you when I was the most afraid. Everything he said and up until the weigh-in, everything was fine. When he entered the octagon and started staring at me, he hadn’t looked at me that way before. That was when I became scared.”
He continued: “He’s another person inside the Octagon, different from his normal personality. I thought ‘This guy wants to kill me’ I’m telling you; this was a different guy from everything else. But in the end, it was good that he entered the octagon this way, because it woke me up, I became aware of the danger, I knew I couldn’t make mistakes. I said damn, he’s different in here, you have to be careful with this man. I went in smarter and managed to catch him.”
Pereira ended up knocking Strickland out with the same left hook he used to flatten Israel Adesanya in their 2017 kickboxing match at Glory of Heroes 7. The win catapulted him into UFC title contention where he TKO’d Adesanya to win the middleweight championship, becoming the first man to finish ‘The Last Stylebender’ in kickboxing and MMA. He is currently #8 in the UFC men’s pound-for-pound rankings.