Alexandre Pantoja reacts to UFC 301 win, ‘watershed moment’ in flyweight division

Alexandre Pantoja is happy not just with his win, but with the state of the UFC flyweight division.

Saturday evening at the Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Pantoja defended his UFC flyweight title for the second time, winning a unanimous decision over Steve Erceg in the main event of UFC 301. Though Erceg was somewhat unheralded as only the No. 10 ranked flyweight in the UFC, “Astroboy” gave a good accounting of himself, winning two rounds on two of the judges’ scorecards and giving Pantoja one of his most difficult fights in recent years. And that’s something the flyweight champion was expecting.

“I think I clearly won the first three rounds of the fight,” Pantoja said through a translator at his UFC 301 post fight media scrum. “The fourth round could of been his. The fifth round was mine, so I definitely think it was 4-1. The guy was very tough. It was what we said. This is a guy from Australia, very tough, that people didn’t really know, and he came in there to die. He was prepared to die and I think that’s what it’s all about when you fight for the championship.”

With the win, Pantoja becomes only the second fighter in UFC history to win multiple flyweight title defenses, behind only Demetrious Johnson. Pantoja also became the first flyweight fighter to headline a UFC pay-per-view event since Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 256. That’s not bad for a division that not too long ago the UFC actively planned to get rid of. Plus, when you couple it with other recent headlining flyweight bouts like UFC Vegas 91 and UFC Mexico City, Pantoja believes that the 125-pound weight class is having a moment right now.

“I’ve always said this division is entirely tough,” Pantoja said. “You can take the 10th-ranked guy and fight against the champion, and you guys saw exactly that tonight. This division is all about work. You can’t move up in the rankings just by talking, and I’m really happy to see this. I think this was a watershed moment for the division. We’ve been having main events in Mexico, there was a main event last week between flyweights, so I’m very happy to see this moment.”

At the center of it all is Pantoja.

Though it took him a while to get there, the longtime UFC fighter finally claimed the flyweight title in 2023 and is now working on cementing himself as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. But with three fights in less than a year, Pantoja wants to take a well-earned break before looking to add a third ruby to his UFC belt.

“I really want to see him against a top-five guy in this division,” Pantoja said of Erceg. “I want to see how he works out. I think he’s going to gain a lot of space in this division, but right now I’m not thinking about that. I don’t want to think about the gym or fighting, I want to think about the beach. … Maybe tomorrow that changes, but for now that’s it.”

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