When Jan Blachowicz heard news that former UFC middleweight champion Alex Pereira was moving up to 205 pounds, he quickly seized on the opportunity.
After a disappointing outcome in his last bout — a majority draw against Magomed Ankalaev — Blachowicz was anxious to score a fight that’d put him right back in title contention again. As soon as he heard Pereira was coming to the light heavyweight division, Blachowicz started making calls.
“When I heard that he would come to our division, I just want to fight against him,” Blachowicz said Monday on The MMA Hour. “I talked with my manager and they did this fight, it was easy. Yeah, I said, ‘OK, give it to me.’ Why not?”
“Maybe [the UFC would have made this fight anyway]. Maybe also there was an idea for them. But I’m happy I got what I wanted.”
Blachowicz got his wish — he now faces Pereira in UFC 291’s co-main event on July 29.
The matchup comes together after Pereira stormed into the UFC and earned a title shot in just his fifth professional MMA fight, largely thanks to his preexisting rivalry with Adesanya dating back to the pair’s kickboxing days; “Poatan” twice defeated Adesanya in kickboxing. Despite possessing far less MMA experience, Pereira’s opportunity paid off after he scored a dramatic fifth-round comeback knockout to beat Adesanya again and capture UFC gold.
It was a short-lived reign atop the 185 pound division, however, as Pereira suffered the opposite fate when Adesanya knocked him out cold at UFC 287 in April. While a trilogy seemed possible afterwards, Pereira opted to make the move up a weight class instead — and Blachowicz is interested to see how that transition will go for him.
“He’s a very big guy,” Blachowicz said. “I think it was a natural way for him to go up, but maybe in the future, he comes back to do one more fight with Adesanya. We will see. I’m just happy that I can fight against him in my division, so he has to be ready for the legendary Polish power.”
Of course, Blachowicz has plenty of experience with fighters testing themselves at 205 pounds after previously competing at middleweight.
Blachowicz previously broke the jaw of former UFC champion Luke Rockhold when the American attempted the same transition, and he handed Adesanya his only other defeat since joining the UFC roster. Blachowicz plans on giving the same rude welcome to Pereira.
“I think this is my job in the UFC sometimes,” Blachowicz said with a smile. “I need to do it in the best way, to send him back to the lower category.
“For sure, he’s going to have power but what I always say if you change weight category you can spar in your gym with the bigger guys but when you fight, it’s completely different. Timing, speed, everything is different. Three times I fight before with guys from the lower division and I won everything. This time will be the same.”
Even though the idea for the fight came from Blachowicz, the UFC was not only receptive to the idea, but the promotion actually rewarded him for making the offer.
According to the 40-year-old veteran, the UFC promised him a title shot if he can get past Pereira, which would then likely put him on a collision course to face the winner of an expected matchup between reigning light heavyweight king Jamahal Hill and former champion Jiri Prochazka.
“If I win the fight, my next fight will be for the title,” Blachowicz revealed. “It’s bigger motivation for me, and thanks to Alex that he moved to our category — new blood.
“I’d like to know what place I am right now. It’s very good for me that after this fight, my next fight will be for the title. I’m just happy to take the belt again to Poland.”
Before he can plan any victory parades back home, Blachowicz first has to get through Pereira, and he’s certainly not losing sight of the dangers he faces against one of the most lethal kickboxers to ever compete in MMA.
“His whole fighting career is just amazing,” Blachowicz said of Pereira. “I love to fight against fighters like this because I don’t need to look for motivation to prepare for this kind of fighter.
“[I want to] check my standup against his standup. I want to check how I’m going to look because he’s one of the best strikers in the world. This is something what I want to know, how my striking is going to look against him.”