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Alexandre Pantoja eyes December UFC title defense, suggests Royal vs. Albazi eliminator

UFC 290: Moreno v Pantoja
Alexandre Pantoja
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Alexandre Pantoja wants to defend his UFC title before the end of the year, but he sees no clear flyweight challenger at the moment.

For that reason, the Brazilian talent suggests to UFC matchmakers a No. 1 contender fight between Brandon Royval and Amir Albazi.

“I think the most reasonable move is them fighting each other,” Pantoja said on a bonus episode of Trocação Franca podcast. “They’re both saying, ‘I’m next, I’m next, I’m next,’ and they’re both fresh, so let them fight and the winner comes [fight me]. It’s only fair to everybody.

“Like I said, the division was stuck for a long time, and I was one of the guys waiting on the doorstep. It would be nice to see the division moving again.”

Royval was the backup fighter for Moreno vs. Pantoja at UFC 290, and he has won three in a row since losing via submission to Pantoja in 2021, beating Rogerio Bontorin, Matt Schnell and Matheus Nicolau. Albazi is 5-0 under the UFC banner, a run capped off by a split decision victory over Kai Kara-France.

Pantoja said he will take a “super necessary” month off to relax after going through three training camps and suffering injuries over the past 18 months. He eyes December as a possible timeline for his first title defense.

The American Top Team product said “it will be good for Moreno to do a non-title fight now,” so Royval and Albazi are the two logical options for his next contenders. Former champion Deiveson Figueiredo might even throw his name in the hat given the fact he holds a win over Pantoja, but Pantoja isn’t convinced.

“Even Deiveson said he wants to go back [to flyweight],” Pantoja said. “I really don’t understand it. Deiveson is crazy. They offered him Manel Kape, a super interesting fight, and he said no because Manel Kape is ranked too low. When I fought Manel Kape, I was No. 5 and he was unranked. When you want to fight, there’s no excuse. Manel Kape is a super tough fighter.

“Deiveson said he’s going up to bantamweight, I heard he’s fighting Dominick Cruz, and then, after I win, he says, ‘No, I can easily go down to flyweight, I’m at a good weight.’ I like him, he’s a good kid, he came from the bottom and was a dominant fighter in the division for a long time, but I think he got lost and made bad decisions. But he’s a champion, a really good fighter.”

Pantoja said his dream is to make enough money in the UFC to buy a nice house for his family in the U.S. and change his family’s life for the better in Brazil. For that reason, right now, he would rather be featured on a pay-per-view event instead of potentially headlining the UFC’s upcoming Fight Night event in Sao Paulo on Nov. 4, a card currently slated to feature Curtis Blaydes vs. Jailton Almeida as its headliner.

“But who am I to say no, man?” he added. “The UFC says I have fight, I’ll fight. I love fighting for the UFC, I love the way they treat the athletes.”

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