UFC welterweight Michel Pereira is dealing with a DUI case in Las Vegas, MMA Fighting has learned. The incident won’t affect his upcoming fight with Santiago Ponzinibbio, which is set as the co-main event of UFC Vegas 55 on Saturday at UFC APEX.
Speaking with MMA Fighting on Wednesday, Pereira said the situation “is already being handled by my lawyer.” The incident happened sometime between his previous UFC fight, a decision victory over Andre Fialho on Jan. 22, and a recent trip to Brazil in mid-March. The fighter said he doesn’t recall the exact date of the incident.
Pereira added he’s also not to blame for the situation. The 28-year-old welterweight said he was asleep in the passenger’s seat while a friend was driving the car, and when he woke up, he thought the car had crashed; Pereira said his friend told him it was a close call.
“I was half asleep on a sunny day in Las Vegas, so I looked at the car and didn’t see anything [in regards to damage],” Pereira said. “I told him, ‘I’ve rested enough already, give me the car and I’ll drive.’ The police pulled me over some time later and did all the procedures and asked me about the crash. That’s when I saw the crash. It almost gave me depression.
“He came and did the breathalyzer test. Since I had too much to drink the day before, it was right on the limit. He said, ‘You’re going to have to come with me and wait for six hours so [the level] goes down.”
Pereira claims he was tested some time later and passed. His lawyer is handling the situation now, Pereira said, and he doesn’t expect to have any more issues with the law because, “I never did anything here [in the United States] or in Brazil — it’s my first case here.”
MMA Fighting was not immediately able to verify Pereira’s alleged case; a search of court records under his given name returned no hits.
Pereira left the U.S. some time after that to visit his home state of Pará in Brazil and had visa issues trying to return to the U.S. with his wife. Pereira said his visa issue was not related to the DUI but rather staying longer than six months in the U.S. with a tourist visa.
Pereira trained in Belém for his welterweight clash with Ponzinibbio and feels “very prepared” for the contest.
“I want to fight the best, I train to fight the best welterweights,” Pereira said. “Ponzinibbio is very good and has a name in the UFC. I don’t like to fight Brazilians — and he’s more Brazilian than Argentine, right? — but he’s in my way. I need to become champion, and I have to fight the best of the division in order to enter the rankings.
“This fight will prove I deserve to be in the top 15. Ponzinibbio is very tough, so I’ll prove to a lot of people I’m capable of being there. The UFC is giving me a lot of good opportunities. They like what I’ve been doing, and that’s great for my career.”
Pereira arrives at UFC Vegas 55 on a four-fight winning streak over Andre Fialho, Niko Price, Khaos Williams and Zelim Imadaev, while Ponzinibbio looks to rebound from a split decision setback to Geoff Neal in December. Pereira said they are both “two great strikers, so this fight has everything to end in a knockout.”
“I don’t see it lasting three rounds — we have everything to finish each other,” Pereira said. “It’s going to be a war. His boxing is very good, he’s an aggressive and powerful guy, but I’ve seen a lot of holes in his game, and I’ll try to use that to my advantage. I have a lot of holes in my game as well, and he’s probably seen that too, so it’s going to be a great war.”