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Alexandre Pantoja – Most Overlooked UFC Champion

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Recently, an image was doing the rounds on MMA Twitter: an infographic that displayed the social media accounts of each champion of the UFC. While many focused on the total followers or lack thereof for the likes of Sean O’Malley, Islam Makhachev, and Alex Pereira, one champion slipped under the radar seemingly unnoticed with a total vastly different from the others. Of the eight male UFC champions, seven have at least a million followers, with many being in the million (s) plural; one champion is currently sitting at just below 200k. That is Alexandre Pantoja. Still an impressive number, of course, yet nothing compared to his contemporaries. This article will explain why this is and highlight a few reasons why Alexandre Pantoja does not get the credit he deserves.

Why is Alexandre Pantoja Overlooked?

  • State of Flyweight Division

Unfortunately for the fighters at Flyweight, the division has failed to receive the same kind of popularity that the heavier weight classes have managed; even Bantamweight, which is just a 10 lb difference, seems to be a bigger hit with fans and receives more coverage than flyweight. Admittedly, this has improved dramatically during recent years, and there is no longer talk of shutting down the Flyweight division; with new champions and contenders with definitive personalities emerging at 125 lbs, it should only grow more in popularity.

Also, being the newest addition to the UFC, the division was somewhat harmed by the presence of Demetrious Johnson. Possessing eleven title defenses, Johnson ruled over the Flyweight division for six years from its beginning in 2012 until what would have been his twelfth title defense in 2018 in his rematch with Henry Cejudo. While having a dominant champion can benefit a division and create a possible star, Johnson never achieved the mainstream status of someone like Anderson Silva or Jon Jones, and his dominance over all the competition only proved harmful to the division overall as people began to lose interest in seeing him fight, believing another victory simply inevitable. This can be seen even in the UFC pay-per-view statistics, with Johnson headlining three events that rank as some of the lowest in pay-per-view history. These are UFC 174, UFC 191, and UFC 186.
This has caused damage, which still affects the flyweight division today despite the emergence of divisional stars such as Henry Cejudo, Brandon Moreno, and Deiveson Figueiredo.

  • Old School Mentality

Along with being a part of the least popular men’s weight division, Pantoja is a fighter who prefers to let his skills speak for themselves and generally does not engage in overall trash talk against his opponents. This is something that has been debated about among fans for years now and likely could take up an entire article itself, yet to keep it short; the issue is that a lot of fans feel that the UFC has become diluted somewhat and is no longer a total meritocracy, fans and the company alike push to promote fighters who they believe will sell the most tickets and draw the most eyes, irrespective to their actual performances in the Octagon.

This has caused many fighters to involve themselves in pre-fight antics and come out with outrageous statements to sell the fights and increase their star power. Pantoja does not seem to engage in these behaviors, and his overall demeanor is more similar to that of a champion from ten or fifteen years ago, such as GSP. This, combined with that English is not his native language, has undoubtedly negatively impacted his popularity with the MMA faithful. In the world of Sean Strickland’s, etc, it is easy for someone like Pantoja to get left behind.

Is Pantoja a “Boring Champ”?

So, we have outlined why Pantoja has not been as successful in generating fans as his peers. Some immediately will state that he is a “boring” champion, and that is why his follower count is so low in comparison.
While it can be said that his lack of outrageous interactions with other fighters or free-flowing interviews may qualify in some people’s eyes as “boring,” the same can not be said for his performances inside the octagon. Five performance/fight of the night bonuses in his last eight fights show that Pantoja is committed to putting on entertaining scraps consistently.

The most high profile of these is when he defeated Brandon Moreno to become the Flyweight champion in a fight that will likely go down as one of the greatest title fights in history.
Pantoja can also not be accused of a boring fighting style. While he does favor his BJJ background, when on the canvas, he is still continuously looking for ways to finish a fight, whether that be via submission or ground and pound; well over half of his wins have come by a finish, and his striking is nothing to be sniffed at either, rapid and durable Pantoja has shown that he is more than capable of delivering powerful strikes as evidenced by his eight wins via KO and that he is more than capable of taking big hits. Of the five defeats he has suffered in his career, he has never been finished in a fight, an awe-inspiring feat.

Finally, the last point to bring up against Pantoja is his impressive CV. He has twice taken on Brandon Moreno and Brandon Royval, emerging victorious each time: two wins over a former champion and two wins over one of the top divisional contenders of the last few years. He also possesses wins over Alex Perez, Manel Kape, and Matt Schnell, who are three current top-ten-ranked Flyweights, with Kape looking like he could soon break into the top five and get a title shot of his own. Even if defeats have come against top-tier competition, his most recent two being against former top contender Askar Askarov and former champion Deiveson Figueiredo. Pantoja is always willing to fight the best of the best competition.


Those are the main reasons large chunks of the MMA audience have seemingly forgotten about Pantoja, yet this is undeservedly so. A fighter who consistently delivers hugely entertaining matchups against the toughest competition should be celebrated and transformed into a star. While the biggest trash talkers and social media stars will always take center stage in the UFC, there should always be a place for genuinely skilled mixed martial artists to be recognized for their talents and contributions to the sport. Pantoja is certainly a fighter who falls into this category, and if you are an MMA fan, you should undoubtedly tune into his next title defense against whoever it may be. Looking at the stats, chances are you will be satisfied.

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