Alex Perez won his UFC debut and looked great in doing so. The California native beat Carls John de Tomas by second-round anaconda choke submission at UFC Fresno last weekend and looked like a real prospect.
But something about fight week still doesn’t sit right with him.
Perez was supposed to fight de Tomas at flyweight. That’s the contract he signed. But during fight week, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) and its doctors decided that the bout could not go on as planned at that weight class.
De Tomas was “significantly” far out of the 125-pound mark and doctors didn’t want him to make an extreme cut. So the commission told Perez that he could fight de Tomas at bantamweight (135 pounds) or not fight at all. It wasn’t an attractive choice for Perez, who felt like de Tomas was getting an advantage and he was being punished for something de Tomas did or couldn’t do.
“I spent money on nutritionists,” Perez told MMA Fighting on Tuesday. “I work with [nutrition team] Perfecting Athletes. That’s a lot of money out of my pocket. How do you expect me to not fight?
“You guys are worried about his safety, but what about mine? What if the guy gains 20 pounds and hits me and causes some kind of damage to me? I don’t understand how you guys are looking out for the safety of fighters.”
CSAC executive officer Andy Foster said Perez, too, was outside of the commission’s regulations that say fighters must be within 10 percent of their contracted weight class. And that is why the decision was made to move the fight up. If Perez had been within 10 percent of flyweight and the fight was moved up due to de Tomas being so far out, then CSAC would have considered fining de Tomas as if he had missed weight.
Foster said this is all a work in progress — part of the 10-point plan to combat extreme weight cutting passed in May — and the commission is still searching for the best possible solutions to what is a major problem in mixed martial arts.
“We were forced with the solution of either moving the fight up or canceling the fight,” Foster told MMA Fighting. “Since they were both heavy, the doctors and I, we talked about it and decided to move it up. We were not going to sanction the fight at [flyweight]. … I hate it for [Perez], I do.”
Foster would not say how much either man weighed earlier in the week, citing privacy reasons. Perez said he arrived in Fresno at 139 pounds, while he heard that de Tomas weighed 145 pounds.
In his UFC debut, de Thomas missed weight by five pounds back in June. Perez said he did not know that when he accepted the fight, but admitted he probably would have said yes to the bout even if he had known.
Perez, 25, said he wasn’t given any answers about the decision to move the fight up by CSAC officials in Fresno. Foster himself was not on site at the event. Perez said he understands and appreciates what the commission is doing, but he believes it needs to hammer things out.
“I just believe that they don’t have everything down and they’re punishing the guy that’s doing their job,” Perez said. … “I understand what they’re trying to do, trying to stop weight cuts from being so bad. I just think they need to get it down, have a better system.”
Perez is from Lemoore, Calif., and lives and trains now in Orange County. He has fought multiple times under CSAC. He believes the choice he was given this time was not a fair one.
“I was gonna take the fight no matter what,” Perez said. “I trained for 10 weeks. I have all these expenses that I haven’t paid for. I need to get paid, I need to fight. This is my full-time job.”
The silver lining is that Perez fought, got paid and won in impressive fashion. He said he wants to return to the Octagon in February or March and he’s targeting a fight against either Eric Shelton or Matt Schnell.
Those would be flyweight bouts, of course. That is the division that Perez feels like he fits best in, despite this hiccup in California.
“I prefer 35 just because I don’t have to cut as much weight,” Perez said. “But 125 is probably where I belong. I can make the weight easier. I don’t kill myself to make the weight like I used to. I’m not a wide body.”