Steve Erceg expects ‘bottles to be thrown at me’ following win over Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 301

Steve Erceg has received a warm welcome in Brazil so far. He isn’t expecting the reception to be so positive on fight night.

In the main event of UFC 301 this Saturday at Farmasi Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Erceg challenges Brazilian flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja. The event marks the the promotion’s first visit to Rio since UFC 283 in January 2023, a night that ended in disappointment with home country favorites Glover Teixeira and Deiveson Figueiredo both losing their titles.

Figueiredo dropped his belt to longtime rival Brandon Moreno, who exited the arena with a hoard of agitated fans directing their frustration at him. Erceg is looking forward to that reaction should he defeat Pantoja.

“I definitely expect the same,” Erceg said at UFC 301 media day. “To go out there and get a finish would be amazing and then yeah, I expect bottles to be thrown at me as I leave the arena, but I think that’s part of the authentic Brazilian experience.”

With fight night still days away, Erceg said that he’s had a great time in Rio so far, with fans showing none of the hostility that he’s anticipating this weekend. The soft-spoken Australian has endeared himself to fans with a 3-0 mark in the UFC and an entertaining fighting style that has earned him two Performance of the Night bonuses.

His quirky personality has also garnered some attention. For his face-off with Pantoja this week, Erceg showed up wearing a plain blue shirt, looking more like a tourist than a UFC headliner.

“It’s not a fashion contest, so I’m just here wearing what I think is comfortable,” Erceg said of his attire. “I am a tourist, so I’m over here doing my part to enjoy the scenery as well as come here and fight some guy.”

Despite the strong start to his UFC career and an 11-fight win streak dating back to his days on Australia’s regional scene, Erceg has frequently been referred to as an unlikely title fight challenger. His wins over Matt Schnell, Alessandro Costa, and David Dvorak don’t jump off the page in terms of name value, but with Pantoja having defeated several top 10 opponents multiple times and other flyweight contenders unavailable, Erceg got the call.

Erceg is well aware of the circumstances that resulted in his title fight opportunity and he vows not to squander it.

“I know that I wasn’t on the top of everybody’s mind when it came to a title shot, but the way the division was, Pantoja had already beaten all of the challengers. People are injured. The only other guy that really was in line for the shot was [Muhammad] Mokaev and I was on the same card as him, I had a more exciting fight than he did and the UFC decided to give me the shot.

“I’m here to be the best guy in the world, so whether I’m an underdog, whether I’m the favorite, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m going to go in there and I’m going to fight another dude in the cage and whoever’s best is going to come out on top.”

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