Flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja to defend title on May 4 at UFC 301 in Rio — But against who?

Alexandre Pantoja

Alexandre Pantoja is gearing up to defend his flyweight title later this year when the UFC returns to Rio de Janeiro. Against whom is of no consequence.

After besting Brandon Moreno for the 125-pound crown in July, ‘The Cannibal’ scored his first successful defense at UFC 296 last month with a decisive decision victory over Brandon Royval. Pantoja is now back in the gym preparing for his next title tilt which he expects to go down on May 4 when the UFC heads back to Brazil for what is expected to be UFC 301.

That comes according to Pantoja’s head coach, Marcos “Parrumpa” DaMatta of American Top Team, who recently told MMA Junkie that ‘The Cannibal’ is determined to defend the flyweight championship in his home country.

“He’s back training – he wants to defend his title in Rio in May,” DaMatta said. “That’s something that we’re really asking the UFC and his managers to make it happen, because it means a lot to him. It’s the first time that he’s going to fight in Rio de Janeiro. He even said that to me, ‘I’ve fought everywhere. I’ve fought in Korea. I’ve fought in the United States, Abu Dhabi, Europe – I’ve never said no to any fight, please just let me defend with my people.’”

There is no Clear-Cut Contender for Pantoja

Though Pantoja is more concerned with the location of his next title fight than the man challenging him, you can’t have one without the other. And when it comes to who is next in the flyweight division, there is no clear answer. A bout scheduled between Manel Kape and Matheus Nicolau earlier this month could have served as a potential title eliminator, but Kape failed to make weight resulting in the bout being scrapped.

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No. 2 ranked contender Amir Albazi makes a lot of sense, but ‘The Prince’ was forced to withdraw from a fight with Brandon Moreno at UFC Mexico City on February 24 due to a neck injury. Albaziz was ultimately replaced by Brandon Royval.

If Brandon Moreno comes out on top against Royval, DaMatta believes we could see a fourth clash between him and Pantoja, though that would only give ‘The Assassin Baby’ two and a half months to prepare for a title fight overseas.

“We’re just hoping that we get there in Rio,” DaMatta said. “There’s a lot of tough guys in the division. Why do the fourth Moreno fight? Why do the third Royval fight? Even Kape. We already fought Kape. But I believe Kape has a little bit of problem making weight. He was a bit too big in between fights. Hopefully he gets his things together because he’s a very dangerous opponent, very tough opponent. There’s a lot names. Albazi is still in the picture. Hopefully he gets healthy soon. We’ll see.

“I truly believe if Moreno wins in Mexico City, UFC is going to try to push for the fourth Moreno fight. The only problem that I see is in between Feb. 24 and May 4, is exactly 10 weeks. The first and last week doesn’t count. He’s going to have eight weeks to prepare for a fight. Since he’s already preparing, hopefully he doesn’t get hurt or anything and we can make it happen in Brazil. I think he will say yes because he won the title in Brazil. He doesn’t have any problems going to Brazil and fighting a Brazilian. So let’s see.”

Per an interview with Flamengo, ‘The Cannibal’ confirmed that he will defend his title on May 4 in Rio. We know the when. Now we just need the who.

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