Las Vegas, NV — A fight being looked at as the “People’s Main Event” of UFC Vegas 55 finds welterweight Michel Pereira paired up with the #14 ranked fighter in the division, Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Brazil’s “Demolidor” has often been criticized for his high-energy capoeira style, with many suggesting a more conservative approach would take him further in the sport. But on the crest of a four-fight win streak, Pereira (27-11, 2NC) is finally getting his shot at the rankings this Saturday.
As Pereira told Cageside Press on Wedneday, during the UFC Vegas 55 media day, it’s an opportunity that was supposed to come earlier this year. “I already was going to fight somebody ranked, he got sick, so I fought [Andre] Fialho,” Pereira pointed out. “And now I get my opportunity to fight a ranked guy.”
Pereira was supposed to face Muslim Salikhov, who at the time was ranked in the weight class, only for the fight to fall through. Instead, he’d go the distance with Fialho in an entertaining scrap towards the end of January.
Now comes Ponzinibbio, a name that got an uneven response from Pereira when he first heard it.
“I was happy because he’s a good fighter. I wasn’t so happy because he’s an Argentinian who’s more like a Brazilian, and I don’t like to fight Brazilians. But you know what, it’s the fight game and we’re there to fight,” Pereira said of his reaction to the booking.
Unlike with previous opponents, the Brazilian isn’t expecting any bad blood or weigh-in antics. “Me and Santiago, we talked to each other, we respect each other. And those things happen in the face-off when people don’t have the same attitude, same respect towards each other.”
That having been said, he still expects a finish come Saturday night at the Apex. “I don’t think this fight’s going to go the three rounds. I think I’m going to knock him out or submit him. I need to get into the rankings, and I’m going to finish it before the three rounds are over.”
It’s just a shame the fight won’t happen in front of a packed house in a larger venue, rather than at the Apex. His style speaks to that, as Pereira himself is well aware. “I’d rather fight in a stadium in front of a lot of people, because the style that I do, they like. The fans like it, and I get to hear it, so I like the big stadiums better.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 55 media day scrum with Michel Pereira above. More coverage from the event can be found below. UFC Vegas 55 takes place this Saturday, May 21, 2022 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.