Exclusive – Steve Erceg excited to share the stage with Jose Aldo at UFC 301: ‘The King of Rio is back!’

Exclusive - Steve Erceg excited to share the stage with Jose Aldo at UFC 301: 'The King of Rio is back!'

Steve Erceg can’t wait to share the stage at UFC 301 with one of the greatest featherweights of all time — Jose Aldo.

On Saturday, May 4, UFC Hall of Famer returns to the Octagon for the first time in nearly two years when the promotion heads back to his home country for a loaded night of fights at Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro. Stepping into the co-main event spotlight, ‘Junior’ will square off with streaking bantamweight standout Jonathan Martinez.

Jose Aldo vs. Jonathan Martinez

Speaking with Andrew Whitelaw in a LowKick MMA exclusive interview, Steve Erceg — who headlines UFC 301 opposite reigning and defending flyweight champion Alexandre Pantoja — is thrilled about the opportunity to share MMA’s biggest stage with one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters the sport has ever seen.

“He’s one of my favorite fighters of all time,” Erceg said of Aldo. “My coach was a big leg kicker and Jose Aldo’s kicks to the leg are some of the best you’ll see. I’m a big fan of his and I understand that he probably won’t be a big fan of mine at the time, but it’s super cool to fight on a card with him and for Brazil. The ‘King of Rio’ is coming back. How can you not be excited?”

Jose Aldo

Steve Erceg breaks down his unlikely title fight with ‘the cannibal’ at UFC 301

Just three fights into his run with the promotion, Steve Erceg will fight for his first world title when he meets the flyweight division’s top dog, Alexandre Pantoja, in the UFC 301 headliner.

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Steve Erceg vs. Alexandre Pantoja

Pantoja goes into his latest defense with an overall record of 27-5 with eight of his wins coming by way of knockout and another 10 via submission. Recognizing the well-roundedness of his opponent, Erceg knows that he’s in for a tough test, but is undeniably excited for the opportunity to show up and show out against the best of the best.

“He’s very good. Obviously, he’s a world champion,” Erceg said. “His ground game is his best asset. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu. He’s great off the back and he’s a lot stronger than I think people give him credit for. There are positions where his opponent will get underhooks and you expect them to use that to get up, but they can’t seem to find an avenue to move.

“The other asset I guess would be his chin. He does a lot of things wrong on the feet, but he gets away with it because of his chin. He’s a great fighter. He’s tough. I’m not gonna just run over him. It’s going to be a very hard well-fought fight and we’re going to see who the best man is.”

Alexandre Pantoja defends against Steve Erceg

As for how Erceg plans on leaving Brazil with UFC gold wrapped around his waist, ‘AstroBoy’ believes it will come down to controlling the pace and taking away opportunities for the champ to gather himself mid-fight.

“If I let him dictate the pace, that is bad for me,” Erceg added. “I have to make sure that I take it out of his realm. He does burst really hard when he’s going, but he does need those rests to get his breath back and continue on with the fight. If I can take those rests away, I think it’s going to be a bad night for him.”

Currently, Pantoja is a sizeable favorite going into the scrap, sitting at -250 on a majority of sportsbooks. An understandable spot considering he holds victories over some of the biggest names to come through 125, including Manel Kape, Brandon Royval, Alex Perez, and former flyweight titleholder Brandon Moreno on two separate occasions.

“He’s beaten a lot of guys who I thought were more talented, that’s for sure. … He’s definitely got some good genetics,” Erceg concluded.

Watch the full exclusive interview with Steve Erceg below:

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