After the least active year of his career in 2019, Alex Perez is hoping to make 2020 his biggest yet.
The 27-year-old Perez returns to action for the first time since March this Saturday as he takes on Jordan Espinosa at UFC on ESPN+ 24. The event takes place at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC and will be headlined by a heavyweight bout between Curtis Blaydes and Junior dos Santos.
Following his unanimous decision win over Mark De La Rosa at UFC on ESPN 2, Perez was forced to withdraw from his scheduled fight with Sergio Pettis at September’s UFC Mexico City with an injury. As much as Perez wanted to compete, despite dealing with the injury, he decided to listen to his team and come back as close to 100-percent as a fighter can.
“It was a little bit strange,” Perez told The Body Lock. “I like being active, I like just being on top of my game and competing. I got injured and took the right steps to getting better. As much as I love competing, I also love getting two checks. I talked to my management and my team and they told me it’s not worth going out there, fighting half-ass just because you’re hurt. You can control if you win or lose when your 100 percent, so why not take the time, heal up and get back in there when you’re good to go. So I took their advice.”
Espinosa will look to bounce back in the win column on Saturday night in Raleigh. In his most recent fight, Espinosa was quickly submitted by Matt Schnell in August at UFC Newark. As quickly as the fight was, Perez wasn’t able to take much away from the multiple time Contender Series winner’s last fight.
“It happened kind of quick so you don’t really see much of it,” Perez said. “It’s a game of inches once you get to the higher level. If you make one simple mistake, it could cost you the fight. He got set up well by Matt Schnell, a good jiu-jitsu guy, and he got the triangle.”
Perez is 4-1 inside of the Octagon, picking up wins over De La Rosa, Jose Torres, Eric Shelton, and Carls John de Tomas. His lone UFC loss came at the hands of the flyweight division’s top contender Joseph Benavidez via first-round TKO at the TUF 28 Finale in November 2018.
After an inactive previous year, Perez was ready for anybody at 125 pounds.
“I feel like I can compete with anybody, it doesn’t matter who you put me against,” Perez explained. “You can put me against Jordan Espinosa or any of these other guys. I feel like I’m well rounded enough that it doesn’t matter who they give me, I can adapt. I’ve been around this game for a long time. A lot of things don’t throw me off.”
As the door of predictions seems to be closing slowly in 2020, Perez is solely focused on getting his hand raised, and getting that second paycheck this Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 24. In addition, Perez is motivated to show the world that he wasn’t just sitting on the couch for the last 10 months.
“I see me winning — whether it’s a finish, submission, decision, knockout — whatever it is,” Perez stated. “If we’re gonna fight, we’re gonna fight. I’m going out there to try and knock your head off. I’m trying to impose my will on you. I just see me getting a win. I’m excited to get back in there and show everybody what I’ve been working on. Just because I was out for a while doesn’t mean I wasn’t getting better.”
With an impressive performance, Alex Perez feels he can shoot back up the divisional ladder and earn big fights in 2020. The flyweight division is going through some changes with Henry Cejudo no longer holding the 125-pound title, and a fight between Joseph Benavidez and Deiveson Figueiredo for the vacant title scheduled for Feb. 29. Perez sees a lot of opportunity at 125 in 2020 and hopes it will lead to a rematch with the one man who holds an Octagon win over him.
“To me, the flyweight division — with or without Cejudo — it was gonna be the same,” Perez said. “He was gonna fight Benavidez, regardless. I feel like there’s new life in the flyweight division, a lot of young guys, a lot of new guys that people don’t know yet that are down to scrap. The whole division in general is great with all of these guys coming in. It’s a whole new division and I can’t wait to see what the division has.
“I want Joe to win so I can get that rematch for the title,” Perez continued. “It’s a toss-up for me but I’m going with Joe because he beat me and I would like to fight that guy again.”