Michel Pereira started to make some noise in 2018, scoring knockouts with wild moves in South Korea. When the UFC decided to sign him, people wondered if that insane style would work in the Octagon.
“Demolidor” needed less than two minutes to prove his case.
The Brazilian welterweight took on Danny Roberts in May, and it was flawless. After an emotional walkout in Rochester, crying every second of it, Pereira breakdanced while Bruce Buffer announced his name for the first time. When the bell rang, Pereira attempted showtime kicks and other crazy moves before landing a vicious jumping knee that rocked Roberts, following with a left hand that dropped him.
When the Brazilian was about to go for a backflip on a barely-conscious Roberts, the referee saved him from a possible disqualification — “Life is about taking risks,” he said. “You never know what will happen unless you take risks.” — by quickly stopping the contest and declaring him the winner.
“It’s like a movie of your life is going on inside your head,” Pereira told MMA Fighting of the emotions he felt that night. “You remember everything you went through, the moments I was alone, away from my parents and my friends, my family. I remember the places I had to sleep at because I decided to stay in my hometown to train karate instead of moving away with my parents. Everything I had to go through to get to the UFC today.”
Yet, he’s not satisfied.
“That’s my way of fighting, that’s what I always do,” Pereira said. “It’s not made to ridicule my opponent. I like fighting that way, and that wasn’t anything compared to what I can do because I only fought one minute and 47 seconds. I haven’t showed anything yet. I was still observing him, figuring out what he was going to do in the fight, but managed to put on a show that everybody wanted. There’s plenty more to come.”
Pereira’s wild style may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and he knows that. When Bellator prospect Michael Page lost to Douglas Lima a week before, the “I told you” critics came from everywhere to judge the style that made him a star. Pereira knows it wouldn’t be different with him.
“There will always be people criticizing the things you do without knowing how hard you worked to be able to do that,” Pereira said. “For example, Anderson Silva always put on a show, was the best in the world for a long time, and everybody loved the things he did. The day it went wrong, almost everybody criticized him. But that’s his way of fighting. And this is my way of fighting.
“You may say, ‘Michel, don’t do this, don’t jump on the fence and do a backflip,’ but I’ll still do that because that’s my style, that’s who I am. I’ll always do my best to be the Michel ‘Demolidor’.”
Prior to his UFC debut, Pereira fought all the way up to light heavyweight in Asia, but opted to compete as a welterweight in the UFC. Despite an apparent tough 37-pound weight cut for UFC Rochester, Pereira says he only needs two weeks to get down to 170 pounds.
Pereira returns to the Octagon on Saturday, facing short-notice replacement Tristan Connelly (13-6) at UFC Vancouver in Canada. Connelly, who’s 8-1 over his last nine bouts, stepped in after Sergey Khandozhko withdrew with visa issues.
Only 1-0 in the UFC so far, Pereira, who missed weight by one pound for UFC Vancouver, coming in at 172 pounds, has bold plans for the future.
“I think about becoming the welterweight champion and in the future face big names like (interim champion Israel) Adesanya at middleweight,” Pereira said. “There aren’t many cool opponents at middleweight for me to fight. I’m going after the best at both welterweight and middleweight, so I don’t care. What I want to do is put on a show for everybody.
“I like Adesanya because he’s a showman. I want to fight the showmen because I want to become the biggest showman in the UFC. At 170, I think about fighting Conor McGregor. At middleweight, Adesanya. I want to fight the ones that put on a show because I want to prove that I’m UFC’s showman.”
“I’ll prove everyone that I’m a great fighter,” he added. “I want to make history in the UFC and please all fans.”