On the brink of a middleweight title opportunity, Sean Strickland appears to be taking a step back when he takes on UFC newcomer Alex Pereira.
Scheduled to fall at UFC 277 on July 30, Strickland (25-3) will enter the Octagon against Pereira (5-1) who will make his third promotional appearance. Meanwhile, Strickland is ranked 5th in the division and riding a six-game winning streak.
While Pereira has looked impressive in his two UFC fights, giving him an opportunity against one of the top five contenders when he himself is nowhere to be found in the top 15 came as a surprise to MMA fans. Popular opinion is that the UFC is trying to fast track Pereira’s chances of winning the title against current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Pereira and Adesanya have already met twice in kickboxing bouts under the Glory of Heroes banner. Pereira won both contests, the second by knockout. With Pereira being the only person to ever knock out Adesanya in combat sports, it’s understandable that the company is rushing to make this fight happen.
“You don’t even have to gain weight”
Prior to the announcement, the general consensus believed that Strickland would face No. 4 ranked contender Paulo Costa. Strickland explained why the fight with Costa never materialized during an interview with The Schmo.
“I called you [Paulo Costa] many times before anything, and the UFC said ‘f*** no’, which means I’m going to fight you and they don’t want me to fight you. That’s what happened, I’ll show you the messages telling them no I can’t fight you. So Costa, fuck off and if I see you in Vegas, and you wanna kick that shit back, whenever you fucking want man, let’s go. You don’t even have to gain weight.
Costa hasn’t fought since an October loss to Marvin Vettori. Prior to the fight, Costa arrived embarrassingly overweight, forcing the fight to switch from a middleweight contest to the light heavyweight division.
“The guy is a fucking savage”
In a separate interview with Helen Yee, Strickland explained why he was excited to face Pereira rather than another top contender like Costa.
“The fucking guy knocked Izzy out. The guy is a fucking savage,” Strickland said in an interview with Helen Yee. “I actually like it, and I’ll tell you why. (Paulo) Costa, for me, is easy pay. All my last fights, all great men, all fucking solid guys. But coming into these fights, you’re kind of like, ‘I’m better than you, I’m better than you, I’m better than you.’
“With Alex, it’s kind of like this scary thing. It kinda turns me on. You see it, you’re like, ‘Oh man, you’re a big scary kickboxer, I want to fight you.’ So I love that it has this unknown factor – new blood.
Are you excited to see Pereira jump the line and fight Strickland or do you think this fight is too soon?
Featured image credit to Embed from Getty Images