Already Growing in Stature, Michel Pereira Plots Move Toward Welterweight Elite

By Marcelo Alonso Sep 16, 2020
Michel Pereira has grown in stature with Brazilian fans following his impressive submission win over Zelim Imadaev at UFC Fight Night 176 on Sept. 5. The scene of Pereira kissing his own hand before slapping Imadaev with it was shown across most of the well-known news channels in Brazil and sent laughter rippling across his homeland.

Pereira’s dominant showing was also recognized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship—and not just in the form of a $50,000 performance bonus. According to “Demolidor,” UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby contacted his manager immediately after the bout.

“Mr. Shelby asked him when I would be ready for my next fight,” Pereira said. “I would love to fight again by November.”

Pereira pointed to a hypothetical pairing with Jorge Masvidal in the immediate aftermath of his latest victory, but he admits there are a number of potential opponents who interest him.

“I don’t know my division’s rankings well,” he said. “To tell you the truth, my main goal is not to choose famous opponents but to ask for opponents who can provide great fights for the audience. That’s why I would love to face guys like Masvidal, [Donald] Cerrone, Nate [Diaz] or [Anthony] Pettis. The same way Anderson [Silva] wanted to fight Roy Jones Jr., I would love to fight them to give the fans a great show. Another guy I would love to fight is Colby Covington. He’s such a disrespectful guy, and it would be a pleasure to slap his face.”

Pereira was born in Tucuma, Brazil, a small city located some 12 hours from Belem, but he recently moved to Las Vegas, where he will sharpen his skills with Rafael Alejarra—an experienced trainer who has worked with Wanderlei Silva, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Cristiane Justino and Demian Maia.

“If I got [three] performance [bonuses] in four UFC fights with no structure,” Pereira said, “imagine me now, when I have all the structure of the [UFC] Performance Institute while being supported by one of the most experienced coaches in the game.”

Pereira started his karate training under Rene Colares at the age of 12 and transitioned to Brazilian jiu-jitsu under Savio Roveno at the age of 16. He achieved the rank of black belt in both disciplines. Pereira has since rounded out his repertoire by working on his boxing with former Brazilian national team trainer Ulisses Pereira and polishing his muay Thai and wrestling with other high-level coaches.

“I trained a lot in all styles,” he said. “That’s why I feel I’m a black belt everywhere. Wherever my opponent wants to test me, I’ll be ready. If you compare my 37 fights of MMA experience with all the ranked guys, you’ll see I’m not behind them. They just arrived in the UFC before I did. I’m just 26 years old. It’s only a matter of time for me to reach the top.”

Innovation remains a motivation for Pereira, who promised that his “slap with a kiss” would not be the only new technique he brings to the sport. In fact, he has named many of them, from “pitionation,” “mule kick,” “revestres” and “brutality” to “fatality,” “canga leitao” and “death illusion.”

“I have 43 different holds,” Pereira said, “and I intend to introduce the UFC fans to each one of them.”

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