UFC prospect Alex Pereira, a kickboxing legend, says fighting saved his life

·Combat columnist
·4 min read

LAS VEGAS — Alex Pereira was literally a child when he dropped out of school and began to work in a tire store to try to earn money to help his impoverished family.

Pereira was 12, and is proof why there are strict child labor laws in place in the U.S. He was still developing, physically and emotionally, and was put into an environment that was way too much for him.

He began to drink and turned into an alcoholic. His life was on a downward spiral fast and he was on his way to becoming an unfortunate statistic.

“It was a difficult, horrible time in my life,” Pereira told Yahoo Sports.

He lived that life for 10 years, until he got a break. In his few sober moments, he knew that what he was doing was only compounding his problems. But he also was, like many alcoholics, largely powerless to stop it.

In a bid to turn his life around, he turned to sports.

“In Brazil, the two big sports are [soccer] and fighting,” Pereira said. “I didn’t really like [soccer], so I started to fight. I was so fortunate that I made that choice. They say that sports saves lives, and I’m proof of it. It was the low point of my life. I’d hit the bottom of the well.

“And I started to fight and it gave me what I needed to turn [my life around].”

Now 34, Pereira is one of the legends in kickboxing and is a rising star in the UFC. On Saturday, he’ll face Bruno Silva on the main card of UFC Vegas 50 at Apex in what figures to be a sensational fight.

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It’s only his second UFC fight, but his first one was so spectacular and his history with middleweight champion Israel Adesanya in kickboxing already has some thinking he’ll be the one to lift the title from Adesanya.

He defeated Adesanya by decision in 2016, then knocked him out with a crushing hook in their March 4, 2017, rematch.

Adesanya turned full-time to MMA after that and has developed into one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world, a guy with the potential to surpass Anderson Silva's records as UFC middleweight champion.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Alex Pereira celebrates after his TKO victory against Andreas Michailidis in their middleweight bout during the UFC 268 event at Madison Square Garden on November 06, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Alex Pereira celebrates after his TKO victory against Andreas Michailidis in their middleweight bout during UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 6, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

It’s a tall task to ask Pereira to come to the UFC and knock off Adesanya, but Pereira said there’s something about his KO victory over Adesanya most fans don’t realize.

“All the great things I did in [kickboxing], they came after that,” Pereira said.

Indeed, he won the Glory middleweight title about seven months after his KO of Adesanya. He made five successful defenses of that belt, and also won the Glory light heavyweight title. He defended that successfully once.

And while he’s spoken a lot about Adesanya prior to both of his UFC fights, it’s because he was asked.

He moved away from kickboxing to concentrate on MMA after losing the light heavyweight title, and is eager to capture a title in a second sport.

“I had done everything I could and wanted to do in kickboxing,” Pereira said. “It was toward the end, it was getting difficult to get the fights I wanted and I just felt MMA made sense as the next challenge.”

Pereira expects a vigorous test from Silva, who is +155 at BetMGM, on Saturday. Silva enters the bout on a seven-fight winning streak and has won 17 of his last 18 matches. He’s 3-0 in the UFC with KOs of Wellington Turman, Andrew Sanchez and Jordan Wright. He’s gotten 19 of his 22 pro wins by KO.

If there’s anyone who knows about KOs, it’s Pereira. Not only did he crush Adesanya in their second bout, but his flying knee finish of Andreas Michailidis was one of the KOs of the Year in 2021.

Pereira said he’d worked on that knee in the gym repeatedly, and when he saw an opening for it in the fight, he took it.

He’s confident he’ll handle Silva, even though he repeatedly praised him as a good fighter.

As for the champion, well, Pereira insists that Adesanya has concerns because he knows what went down between them in the past.

“He can talk and say what he wants about me, but no one knows better what happened than he and I,” Pereira said. “I think he’s already making excuses.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: (R-L) Alex Pereira TKO's Andreas Michailidis with a knee to the chin in their middleweight bout during the UFC 268 event at Madison Square Garden on November 06, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Alex Pereira finishes Andreas Michailidis with a flying knee at UFC 268. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)