Markus Perez is about to make his UFC debut, and he wants to make history in the company.
The UFC matched up the Brazilian against fellow undefeated middleweight Eryk Anders at Saturday’s UFC Fresno, and Perez, who works his jiu-jitsu with Demian Maia and his striking with Marcos Rogerio de Lima — and spent some time at Alliance MMA in San Diego before his fight —, already aims to win two UFC belts.
"I’m in the UFC, cool, but that’s not my dream,” Perez told MMA Fighting. "My dream is to win two belts in the UFC. This is just another step in that direction. I will focus on beating this guy, winning a bonus, and showing what I can do."
Perez competed at welterweight early in his MMA career, and currently weighs around 203 pounds in between camps. With his mother as his nutritionist, the UFC newcomer predicts that he will cut back down to 170 pounds in the future.
"I want to stay at middleweight until I get the belt,” he said, "and then I want to challenge the welterweight champion.”
Perez and Anders are both 9-0 in MMA, but the Brazilian expected to be in the UFC a while ago.
"I was anxious to sign with the UFC after I defeated Paulo Thiago last year, and that didn’t happen. I fought Ildemar ‘Marajo' (Alcantara) right after, and still didn’t sign with the UFC,” Perez said. "I won the LFA belt and [the UFC] said they wouldn’t sign me at that moment because they were releasing a lot of fighters, so I just forgot about it and relaxed. I told LFA that I wanted to defend my title this year. I wanted to go to the UFC, but I decided to continue beating people up until I got the call."
The Brazilian talent says that finally letting it go helped him to relax now that he’s finally making his Octagon debut, and his previous experience on The Ultimate Fighter also played a factor.
Perez had less than a handful of fights under his belt when he tried out for The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 3 in 2014. He was approved, but lost to Guilherme Vasconcelos via submission in the preliminary fight and went back home.
"I had to stop and reflect why I was doing this because I was winning everything up until that point, and all of I sudden I lost,” Perez said. "My world collapsed, and I didn’t do anything for three months. It was a learning experience for me. We can’t regret anything we do in life, we have to use that as a positive experience.
"I started to wonder why I was fighting, and God gave me an answer. God showed me I wasn’t ready for the UFC yet. If I had won that fight and entered in the UFC, unprepared and immature, I wouldn’t stay much longer in the UFC. I didn’t feel ready back then. That fight, that loss on TUF, was my best fight, because it made me grow.
"I only started to train MMA six years ago and I see how much I’ve improved compared to other athletes. I know that God gave me a gift. When I die, he will ask me ‘what have you done with the gift I gave you?’, and I want to show him the UFC belt and be able to say I was the best in the world. I feel that this is what I have to do.”
Perez started to get involved with martial arts in 2008, training Kung Fu in Sao Paulo. He added other martial arts to his resume a few years later, but no matter what he did, he still wanted to be like Bruce Lee.
"When I started training MMA I liked to impersonate Bruce Lee,” "Perez said with a laugh. "I asked my coach if I could use Kung Fu pants and shoes when I was training boxing, so people said I was crazy. That’s why they call me ‘Maluko' (crazy, in Portuguese)."
His Kung Fu background not only allowed him to try to become like Lee, but also made him unorthodox with his striking game in mixed martial arts.
“It's hard to find someone like me,” Perez said. "The thing about my striking that gives my opponents trouble is that they never know what to expect. You won’t be comfortable anywhere, even if you’re hitting me, because I can attack you out of nowhere, like a spinning elbow knockout."
"It’s the same thing with my ground game,” he added. "Nobody expected my last submission. That’s who I am. I like to do unorthodox things, and that’s a problem for my opponents.”
"He’s no big deal,” Perez said. "He moves forward and has a heavy hand, and that’s pretty much it. He’s a limited guy. He’s explosive, strong, but no big deal. Just avoid his hand. He doesn’t block kicks, his takedowns are lame, his ground game has no jiu-jitsu, only ground and pound, so it’s an easy fight for me. Just stay focused.”
"He fought a UFC veteran, but I fought two. It wasn’t in the UFC, but I fought two,” he added. "‘Sapo’ wasn’t in a good moment in his career. I fought Paulo Thiago, who was a top 10 once, and Ildemar ‘Marajo’, who was never finished in the UFC. I have more experience than him.
"I want tough opponents because I want to prove how ready I really am. If I want to win a belt, I can’t get easy fights. I have to prove the world that I’m the best middleweight in the world."