UFC 300 headliner Alex Pereira had not yet tried martial arts at time of UFC 100

Everyone knows what Alex Pereira will be up to for UFC 300: closing out the milestone night in Las Vegas in the main event.

It’s a far cry from what he was doing around the time of UFC 100: not training in the martial arts.

Alex Pereira celebrates winning the UFC light heavyweight championship on Nov. 11, 2023, at Madison Square Garden.
Alex Pereira celebrates winning the UFC light heavyweight championship on Nov. 11, 2023, at Madison Square Garden. Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

“In 2009, I actually had not even started really training yet,” Pereira recently told The Post during a video call via interpreter Plinio Cruz, his Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach. “Had not even trained soccer or anything like that. I just later in 2009 I started getting my feet wet in martial arts.”

Clearly, July 11, 2009, was a long time ago, and it’s becoming increasingly common that young men and women were drawn to the sport by events having taken place in the time since Brock Lesnar pounded out Frank Mir in their highly anticipated rematch for the heavyweight title at that tentpole event.

But Pereira isn’t a fresh-faced, 20-something fighter who began his MMA journey as a kid; the UFC light heavyweight champion turns 37 this summer, having spent the past 15 years conquering two weight classes in the world of kickboxing and in the UFC as its former middleweight titleholder.

When “Poatan” came to martial arts, it wasn’t to chase the glory he nonetheless achieved.

Pereira merely sought a way to get his life back on track as he battled alcohol addiction.

The road to sobriety was not a straight one — he says he has not had a drink since about 2013, a year before he began competing for Glory in kickboxing — but even today Pereira keeps himself grounded by not forgetting where he came from as an impoverished youth in Brazil.

“I think almost every day about how far I came,” Pereira said. “That’s just to keep me grounded in my roots.”

Pereira recalled recently watching fights at the home of head coach Glover Teixeira, who lost the final fight of his career last year to Pereira’s upcoming opponent, Jamahal Hill, and his thoughts drifting to “everything it took” to reach this point in his life.

He adds that this is part of why he returns frequently to his homeland — he trains at Teixeira MMA & Fitness in Bethel, Conn. — and hangs out with family and old friends.

Add the honor of headlining one of the most stacked events in UFC history to the list of accomplishments he could not have fathomed, and it’s one more way Pereira has defied critics who doubted a kickboxing champion with just four MMA bouts upon his 2021 UFC debut could make waves in this sport.

Having shut the door on a return to middleweight to reclaim the first UFC championship he won in 2022, Pereira’s focus is squarely making his first light heavyweight title defense — and eventually subsequent ones.

Since dominant division champion Jon Jones vacated the crown in 2020, Pereira is the fifth man to be recognized as undisputed champion following brief reigns by Jan Blachowicz, Teixeira, Jiri Prochazka and Hill.

Hill won the title, vacated by Prochazka due to injury, when he hammered Teixeira for five rounds in Brazil last January, with Pereira cornering his mentor and, notably, leering at Hill in the aftermath.

When Hill also vacated the title due to a ruptured Achilles tendon last July, that paved the way for Pereira to defeat Prochazka and become the champion at 205 pounds — needing just about two years from the day of his UFC debut to become a two-division kingpin, the fasted in promotional history.

Pitting Pereira and Hill against one another gives the champ a chance to become the first man since Blachowicz in March 2021 to successfully defend the light heavyweight belt that has become a hot potato.

And that is all, Pereira maintains, that he is focused on, rather than the narrative that he seeks retribution on behalf of Teixeira.

“Many people say, ‘Oh, he’s going in there to avenge Glover. Is there bad blood and stuff?’ No. I’m just fighting another opponent,” Pereira says.


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