Newly minted UFC flyweight world champion Alexandre Pantoja has taken the mixed martial arts world by storm.
But his incredible journey culminated in a five-round bout against fan favorite Brandon Moreno, where Pantoja emerged victorious and claimed the coveted 125-pound crown.
In a recent interview with The MMA Hour, Pantoja opened up about the challenges he faced and the sacrifices he made to reach the pinnacle of his career. The Brazilian revealed that his family was struggling to make ends meet as far back as 2020. So he worked as an Uber Eats delivery driver to provide extra financial support.
He said: “After the pandemic and after my fight with Manel [Kape] I gave some money to my family. They moved back to Brazil and I came back to the U.S. alone. It was like like eight months without my family and that’s very hard for me.”
“Sometimes I talk with my wife [about] I don’t know if I can be a daddy again because eight months without my kids, that’s very hard for me. That’s about sacrifice for me.”
His determination and commitment to his family’s well-being led him to make a significant decision after his victory over Kape. Pantoja used all his match earnings as a down payment for a house and brought his family back together. However, the financial strain persisted. So both Pantoja and his wife resorted to side gigs – cleaning houses and driving for Uber to make ends meet.
“I put all the money on a down payment for the house and brought my family back. That was more important for myself, but when my family was back, the money was short and my wife started to clean houses and I started to drive Uber. I’d do it again if I need.”
“This isn’t about just myself. It’s about my family. It’s about my kids, my two boys.”
Pantoja’s world-title win against Brandon Moreno almost slipped away due to a perplexing 49-46 scorecard favoring his opponent, courtesy of presiding judge Ben Cartlidge. Fortunately, the other two judges scored it 48-47 in favor of Pantoja.
Reflecting on the controversial scorecard, Pantoja admitted that he momentarily feared losing the belt. However, he remained confident in his abilities and the knowledge of how matches are typically scored.
“I’m one of the guys having my feet on the ground. I’m not somebody who likes to take something I don’t deserve, but in that moment, I know I won the fight. But when the judges said a score for Moreno… I think that’s a unanimous decision. Everyone can see I won the fight.”
Dana White wouldn’t discount the chances of Pantoja rematching Moreno again. While Flyweight was once on the verge of getting cut, everyone loves seeing Moreno, Figueiredo and Pantoja.
With Figueiredo moving up, it’s likely the two will rematch in future.