This Thursday, Alex Perez is tasked with taking on one of the biggest names in wrestling. Two-time NCAA National Champion Roman Bravo-Young awaits the number 7 ranked UFC flyweight with Dominick Cruz, Brian Glick and all of Penn State nation in his corner.
The last time Perez competed at UFC 277 in July of last year, Bravo-Young had yet to start his senior season and the talks of an MMA transition post-wrestling were murmurs, yet to see the volume they’re at today. Fans were excited to see the way RBY capitalized on his final year of eligibility. One fan in particular was Perez.
Perez, a lifelong wrestler and wrestling fan, spent a portion of his injury rehab watching the collegiate season and being one of the previously mentioned fans speculating about the MMA potential of Bravo-Young.
“I’m excited,” Perez said. “I’m a huge wrestling fan and he’s one of the guys I kind of look up to on the wrestling mat. I see what he does and I’m excited.”
He may be known to the masses as the Tachi Palace Fighting champion turned UFC flyweight title challenger, but Perez is a wrestler at heart and by trade. Making the transition to MMA as a way to continue a passion for combat sports introduced to him through wrestling, Perez fully understands the wrestling grind, embraces those who climb to the heights Bravo-Young has and feels that of all the wrestlers in the world, RBY may come with a style that will make for fireworks.
“I feel like his style and my style kind of just go for it,” Perez explained. “I’m expecting a fun match. I’m not expecting a boring one. Obviously, he’s going to try to take me down, I’m going to try to take him down and test myself.”
Bravo-Young is getting quite a lot of praise for his venture into submission grappling game, which is more than warranted. He’s known to be MMA community adjacent but never competed, but Perez laughs that despite it being his FPI debut, as well, there’s a different precedent set.
“I think people expect a fighter to say yes to a match because we train Jiu jitsu,” Perez explained. “Also, my background is wrestling. I don’t have the wrestling extent of RBY but that’s my bread and butter. I got into the sport because of wrestling.”
Win, lose, or draw, Perez sees the opportunity as a chance to test himself in a unique space, elevate his career, elevate wrestling and hopefully inspire more wrestlers to leave their comfort zones and test themselves alongside UFC athletes.
“I’m hoping this just makes wrestlers want to come over,” Perez said. “Most guys that wrestle at the highest level are usually trying to shoot for the Olympics, but there’s only one spot. On the World teams there’s only one spot, so I’m hoping a lot of guys make this transition. Wrestlers always tend to do well in MMA or jiu jitsu. I’ve seen good wrestlers go to jiu jitsu and kill it.”
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