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Bruno Blindado: Alex Pereira is standing between me and the top 15 and ‘I have to shut him off’

Bruno Blindado, 3-0 under the UFC banner with a trio of knockouts, faces Alex Pereira in March.
Chris Unger, Zuffa LLC

Bruno Blindado scored 19 of his 22 MMA victories by knockout, but he wouldn’t call himself a man with heavy hands. The secret, he said, is precision. In his own words, “Any man on Earth, if I catch them, I shut them off.” And that’s exactly the plan ahead of his UFC clash with fellow striker Alex Pereira on March 12.

Pereira, also known as “Poatan”, is a former two-division GLORY champion who happens to hold a pair of kickboxing wins over UFC middleweight king Israel Adesanya. He won his UFC debut with a flying knee knockout over Andreas Michailidis in November, leading to a clash with Blindado.

Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting’s Portuguese-language podcast Trocação Franca, Blindado, 3-0 in the octagon with a trio of knockouts, said he’s got nothing person against Pereira, but wants to knock the hype-train off the rails to continue to move up the rankings.

“[This win] puts me in the top 15, which is my goal,” Blindado said. “I’m not thinking about [Israel] Adesanya or Robert Whittaker right now. That’s going to be inevitable, of course. If I continue working and winning, that’s going to be inevitable. I always focus on my next fight. So, for me to go to the top 15, ‘Poatan’ is standing in front of me and I have to shut him off.

“I have to win no matter how or he’ll beat me.‘Poatan’ has no name in MMA, but he has a beautiful story in GLORY. Two-division champion, knocked out Adesanya. It’s very cool. People will say, ‘Who’s that guy that beat ‘Poatan’?’ They will look me differently. That’s what I want, and that’s why I took this fight without thinking twice.”

Blindado thought it was “inevitable” that a clash with Pereira would get booked in 2022 and admits he had no idea who he was before “Poatan” began flirting with the idea of retiring from kickboxing to pursue his MMA dream. The match-up between rising Brazilian middleweights didn’t please many fans in Brazil, but Blindado doesn’t mind.

“A lot of people came to criticize, praise, talk a bunch of stuff,” Blindado said. “[Some said] I shouldn’t have taken it, ‘you’re going to die.’ I said, my friend, the biggest pressure I had so far in my life was fighting in Russia. UFC is the biggest promotion in the world, but I didn’t feel the same pressure in the UFC like I felt fighting in Russia. And I don’t think I’ll feel the same thing I felt in Russia.

“I fought [Alexander] Shlemenko in Russia, his home, in front of his family and 30,000 people watching, [why] am I not going to fight in the UFC? If I want to be champion, brother, [I’ll fight] anyone. The odds of me losing to ‘Poatan’ are the same of me losing to someone who just got in the UFC. And the odds of me beating ‘Poatan’ are the same of me beating [a newcomer]. A fight is 50-50. This is the only sport in the world where a drunk can beat a professional. I’m ready.”

Blindado, who went on a tear in Russia with knockouts over Gennadiy Kovalev, Shlemenko and Artem Frolov to win the M-1 middleweight belt and ink a deal with the UFC, never watches too much tape of his opponents. For this bout, he only watched one kickboxing match and three MMA contests: Pereira’s submission loss to Quemuel Ottoni in 2015 and his most recent MMA bouts with Thomas Powell and Michailidis, both won by knockout.

“If he had 500 MMA fights, I’d only fight two, tops,” he said. “I’ve been criticized in the past when I said I don’t watch fights. Why am I going to watch it? ‘Oh, he has a nice cross.’ Cool, so I won’t fight him because he might land that cross? Let’s go, man. Let’s trade hands. Let’s see which one is the best, if it’s his cross, or if my hand is heavy.

“Imagine if I’m fighting someone like Khabib [Nurmagomedov]. ‘He’ll get the takedown, he’ll get the takedown, and he did.’ What’s the point? I don’t like watching fights. I had two psychologists and they said the same thing. Why am I going to create this monster inside my head? Ask for your team to break them down, see their strengths and weaknesses, and do your job. I focus on myself.”

Pereira reportedly had the option to choose his opponent out of a few names, and explained he opted to face Blindado, an exciting striker, instead of sharing the cage with a “notorious lay-and-pray” fighter in Krzysztof Jotko.

“I never had that option,” Blindado said. “Every time I’m fighting, Mick [Maynard, UFC matchmaker] sends me the date, the time and the opponent. I never had this option in the UFC, in Russia or even in Brazil. I didn’t pad my record when I fought in Brazil, and I even fought as a heavyweight. I’m a 185er and I fought at heavyweight. My [former] coach would throw me against some crazy dudes and sometimes I beat them, sometimes I got beat. I never chose fights.

“‘Poatan’ had this option, and I’ll be honest with you: I respect his opinion and I agree with it. There are two possibilities: he’s thinking about the show, that he’s fighting the guy that’s on a roll in the UFC and could jump [the rankings], or in his head he’s the guy that knocked out Adesanya and thinks it’s going to be very easy. If he’s going down that path, I guarantee you he’s thinking sh*t, he’s being a hypocrite, dumb and ignorant.

“But I don’t believe he’s thinking that, I think he’s thinking about the show. If I were in his shoes, I’d also pick a fight him with. But since I never had this option, I’d trade hands with anyone. You make 185 pounds, bring anyone.”