Alexandre Pantoja is one of the rising prospects in the flyweight division, but he isn’t happy with the way the UFC has promoted the division.
The former RFA champion entered The Ultimate Fighter season that crowned a contender for UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, but failed to make it to the final. Still, he got his chance in the Octagon after the show regardless and scored his 10th straight victory with a decision over Eric Shelton in January.
Now booked to meet Neil Seery at the UFC Fight Night 113 event in Glasgow, Scotland, the Brazilian talent reacted to the recent back-and-forth between Johnson and UFC president Dana White.
"Some fighters can promote well, I think Conor McGregor is someone that pleases everyone, but not every fighter is like that,” Pantoja told MMA Fighting. "The UFC should be the one to build a marketing structure that matches Demetrious Johnson’s style. I know he loves video games, so they could work on that.
"It doesn’t help to argue with him. The guy is winning. It’s a bit ridiculous to see the UFC demand anything from a guy that dominates the division for five years."
According to Pantoja, it wouldn’t be fair to force “Mighty Mouse” to move up to the bantamweight division as well.
"He’s not a heavy fighter,” Pantoja said. "People tell him to move up, but why would he give a 20-pound advantage to his opponents? It’s kind of surreal.
"I met him at the Retreat. He’s a super nice guy. And I was surprised to find out that he’s shorter than me,” he continued. "I’m one of the lightest fighters in the division, and he’s as light as me and dominates the division. He didn’t need to change his body structure, keeps his weight low and puts on a show. He’s explosive, dominant, and his cardio is unbelievable. He fights the fifth round as he fights the first one. I think the key for his performance is his mindset."
Johnson is not a trash talker like McGregor or Michael Bisping, so Pantoja believes the UFC should promote fighters differently, based on who they are, instead of insisting on the “they hate each other” angle for every fight.
"They want us to do the job, but they have to do it as well,” Pantoja said. "I know that right now, where I am in my career, I only think about winning. I know that we have to promote ourselves in the social media and all that, that the UFC is growing, but the UFC… this company that bought the UFC now will upgrade the marketing. They should work with those who are not a Conor McGregor as well."
Entering his second fight in the UFC, the Brazilian wasn’t pleased to hear White mention that he considered shutting down the whole division.
"That’s complicated,” Pantoja said. "I think it’s a bit disrespectful. I think we have our space. What’s lacking is marketing. There are a lot of good flyweights coming, and I believe that will change the way the division looks now. I believe it’s a matter of marketing. There are a lot of great fighters, they just have to look for it."
All of the controversy will be left outside the Octagon on Sunday, though, when Pantoja meets Seery in Scotland.
"I heard that this is his last fight and he will retire regardless of the result,” Pantoja said, "but I imagine that he won’t retire if he loses, so I plan on retiring him because I only think about winning."
The Nova Uniao fighter believes that facing someone like Seery is great for him right now, a “good challenge,” and being the one to face him in his last MMA bout makes it even more special.
"What motivates me is the fight, to put on a show and do my best,” Pantoja said. "I’m evolving after every fight, and that’s one of my biggest motivations. The fact that he’s retiring, I look at it as a positive factor, because I think he’s planning on putting on a great performance. That’s what I’m hoping for."
"We have similar styles, we’re both brawlers,” he added. "I believe they put on this match-up because it’s going to be a war, and I plan on giving him that. If he gives me an opening, I will finish the fight, but I’m ready to go to war and get that bonus."