Exclusive – Steve Erceg reveals how his unlikely title fight with Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 301 came together

Exclusive - Steve Erceg reveals how his unlikely title fight with Alexandre Pantoja at UFC 301 came together

Just three fights into his career in the Octagon, Australian standout Steve Erceg has already teed up his first shot at UFC gold.

On Saturday, May 4, ‘AstroBoy’ will headline UFC 301 when the promotion returns to Rio de Janeiro. There, Erceg will challenge reigning and defending flyweight world champion Alexandre Pantoja in a fight that nobody saw coming — at least not this soon.

Steve Erceg vs. Alexandre Pantoja

Speaking with Andrew Whitelaw in a LowKick MMA exclusive interview, Erceg offered some details on how the unlikely title tilt came together, revealing along the way that he was essentially in the right place at the right time.

“I expected there’d be quite a few more people ahead of me that would get a shot,” Erceg said. “The way it came together was that all the guys ahead of me except for [Muhammad] Mokaev were injured, had already fought, missed weight, and all that stuff. So it really came down to who performed better at the Vegas show. I finished Matt Schnell and Mokaev had a tough outing [against Alex Perez] so they gave me the opportunity.”

Competing on a Fight Night card in March, Erceg delivered a destructive second-round knockout of Schnell while Mokaev put together a lackluster showing against Perez. That’s all the UFC needed to know who the next man up at flyweight should be.

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Steve Erceg KOs Schnell

That and Brandon Royval’s stunning short-notice win over Brandon Moreno a month earlier.

Steve Erceg excited to fight Pantoja on his home turf

Steve Erceg knows a thing or two about winning titles, having captured the Eternal MMA flyweight championship in March 2020. Of course, ‘AstroBoy’ recognizes that there is a big difference between winning a title on the regional scene versus bagging one on MMA’s biggest stage.

“I know I can rise to the occasion, but obviously winning a world title in the UFC is a very different thing,” Erceg said. “It’ll be the culmination of all my hard work. The other titles are cool and all, but they mean a lot less than this one.”

Steve Erceg wins Eternal MMA title

Erceg will certainly have his work cut out for him in his first UFC main event. Not only is he taking on the best flyweight fighter on the planet, but he’ll be doing so in enemy territory.

“I’m excited for it,” Erceg said when asked about fighting Pantoja on his home turf. “I know the crowd is going to be very loud. Not for me. They’re going to be booing me, obviously, but I’ve had some hostile crowds before. Nothing to the level of this, but I love it. I’m gonna relish the opportunity and I can’t wait to beat the Brazilian in front of his home crowd and then leave with the belt.”

Watch the full exclusive interview with Steve Erceg below:

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