After learning that former UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira was stepping up to 205 pounds, Jan Blachowicz jumped at the chance.
Blachowicz was eager to win a fight that would put him back in the running for the title after his last match ended in a majority draw against Magomed Ankalaev. Blachowicz began dialing numbers as soon as he learned Pereira was joining the light heavyweight division.
“When I heard that he would come to our division, I just want to fight against him. I talked with my manager and they did this fight, it was easy. Yeah, I said, ‘OK, give it to me.’ Why not? Maybe [the UFC would have made this fight anyway]. Maybe also there was an idea for them. But I’m happy I got what I wanted.”
Blachowicz got his wish; on July 29, he will fight Pereira in the co-main event of UFC 291.
The battle was made after Pereira burst into the UFC and earned a championship chance in only his fifth professional mixed martial arts fight, largely because of his previous rivalry with Adesanya, which dates back to the pair’s kickboxing days and in which “Poatan” twice defeated Adesanya. Despite having much less MMA experience, Pereira’s chance paid off as he defeated Adesanya once more and won the UFC championship with a thrilling fifth-round comeback knockout.
After UFC 288, UFC President Dana White spoke with media on the main event between Aljamain Sterling and Henry Cejudo, Kron Gracie’s performance, the status of the titles between Belal Muhammad and Sean O’Malley, Gilbert Burns’ injury during Muhammad’s fight, and other topics.
However, Pereira’s dominance of the 185-pound class was brief as he experienced the opposite outcome when Adesanya knocked him out in the first round at UFC 287 in April. After that, a trilogy appeared plausible, but Pereira decided to go up in weight, and Blachowicz is curious to see how that experience would go for him.
“He’s a very big guy,” Blachowicz said. “I think it was a natural way for him to go up, but maybe in the future, he comes back to do one more fight with Adesanya. We will see. I’m just happy that I can fight against him in my division, so he has to be ready for the legendary Polish power.”
Of course, Blachowicz has a lot of experience with athletes who have previously competed at middleweight and are now trying themselves at 205 pounds.
When the American attempted the similar transition, Blachowicz previously fractured Luke Rockhold’s jaw, and he dealt Adesanya his only other loss since joining the UFC roster. Pereira will receive the same hostile reception from Blachowicz.
“I think this is my job in the UFC sometimes,” Blachowicz said with a smile. “I need to do it in the best way, to send him back to the lower category.
“For sure, he’s going to have power but what I always say if you change weight category you can spar in your gym with the bigger guys but when you fight, it’s completely different. Timing, speed, everything is different. Three times I fight before with guys from the lower division and I won everything. This time will be the same.”
Blachowicz came up with the concept for the match, but the UFC was not only open to the notion; the company even paid Blachowicz for his pitch.
The UFC allegedly guaranteed the 40-year-old veteran a title chance if he defeats Pereira, which would place him on a collision course to face the victor of the anticipated contest between current light heavyweight champion Jamahal Hill and former champion Jiri Prochazka.
“If I win the fight, my next fight will be for the title,” Blachowicz revealed. “It’s bigger motivation for me, and thanks to Alex that he moved to our category — new blood.
“I’d like to know what place I am right now. It’s very good for me that after this fight, my next fight will be for the title. I’m just happy to take the belt again to Poland.”
Blachowicz must defeat Pereira before he can organize any victory celebrations at home, and he is not neglecting the dangers he faces against one of the deadliest kickboxers to ever compete in MMA.
“His whole fighting career is just amazing,” Blachowicz said of Pereira. “I love to fight against fighters like this because I don’t need to look for motivation to prepare for this kind of fighter.
“[I want to] check my standup against his standup. I want to check how I’m going to look because he’s one of the best strikers in the world. This is something what I want to know, how my striking is going to look against him.”
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