With the array of mouthwatering fights on a stacked UFC 268 bill, it would be easy for debutant Alex Pereira to go under the radar.
But the Brazilian's decorated kickboxing career has landed him a shot at headlining the prelims tonight when he takes on Andreas Michalidis in his UFC debut.
And anticipation is high with his intriguing back story dominated by his early rivalry with current middleweight champion Israel Adesanya.
Pereira's potential in the cage remains unknown despite a glistening kickboxing career during which he reigned as a two-division Glory champion.
The Brazilian will now attempt to follow in the footsteps of several successful Brazilian fighters in the sport including Anderson Silva, Glover Teixeira and Jose Aldo.
The 34-year-old enters a middleweight division stacked with talent including the likes of Robert Whittaker, Marvin Vettori, Jarod Cannonier and Darren Till.
But Pereira will be looking for a rapid rise to the top of those rankings in order to renew his rivalry with Adesanya.
Pereira won Glory's middleweight contender tournament in Zagreb in 2014 which afforded him a successful platform to build his career as he looked to conquer an array of weight categories including light-heavyweight and middleweight.
He first made a surging run at the middleweight world title which led to his first shot at the belt against Yousri Belgaroui at Madison Square Garden.
He shone on the big stage solidifying his credentials with a stunning first-round stoppage sealed by a textbook right hand.
With his punch power an obvious weapon during his rise, he continued his surge with consecutive title defences before announcing a future move to mixed martial arts.
Pereira already had a growing reputation and he re-signed with Glory before becoming interim light-heavyweight champion in 2019.
This wrote his name in the history books becoming the first double-champion in the sport shortly before he challenged for the main title in the early stages of 2021.
Pereira's glistening career reached its pinnacle in January of that year when he successfully secured the belt with victory over Artem Vakhitov, to become the first man to hold two title belts in the promotion.
Despite losing his belt in a rematch with Vakhitov in September, Pereira's prospects looked bright and he was signed by UFC president Dana White with a view to making his debut as soon as possible.
But it is his well-documented history with current reigning middleweight champion Adesanya which keeps him in the headlines.
The pair have fought twice with the first meeting coming in 2016, when Pereira ended the Nigerian-born star's 12-fight win streak via unanimous decision.
It earned him a great deal of respect from 'Style Bender' who would later take on Pereira in a rematch of their classic encounter.
But the second altercation would be met with more hostility from Adesanya who clearly felt threatened by Pereira with such high stakes.
And what unfolded will continue to be documented during his UFC career as he became the first man to knock the world-level operator out cold with a huge left hook.
Pereira has since continued his rise in kickboxing and now with his UFC career looming, the Brazilian has received great backing from the likes of his sparring partner Teixeira who is now the UFC light-heavyweight champion at the age of 42.
"That guy is scary you know. He is scary with those four ounce gloves," Teixeira said. "Very strong, very powerful and very dedicated.
"He's incredible, man, the way he learned things. This is his first fight in the UFC [UFC 268], probably there's little nerves, little everything. But no doubt he's gonna be one of the top contenders very soon.
“This guy is very knowledgable and he’s one of the greatest fighters that I’ve ever trained with. We’ve been training together because we have the same mind set. We want the same thing – to be a champion.”
Pereira's current MMA career boasts a record of three victories and one defeat with his last cage outing ending in glory against Thomas Powell.
But it remains to be seen whether Pereira can make the step up from kickboxing to the UFC with over 30 wins in Glory.
Will Alex Texeira make a winning start to his UFC career this weekend? Let us know in the comments section below.
However, after battling back from a long period of alcoholism and binge drinking, Pereira believes he is now a world-beater and has the confidence to go for further title glory in the UFC.
“By the time I was 16 or so, I was drinking about a litre a day of rum at work, usually with a few beers mixed in there as well,” he said.
"I was an alcoholic, full-blown alcoholic. That was just the lifestyle of working in that place. I didn’t know any different. It just crept up on me.
“But I want to make it very clear that I didn’t come to the UFC because of Adesanya," Texeira continued. "I came to be the champion, if he’s the champion when I get there, fine. But it might not be. Who has to think about me is him, who lost twice, not me.”
And so, after battling back from the brink, Pereira now looks set for the top with the first step of his MMA career set to take place on Saturday night.
And the spotlight will be on his blossoming debut on arguably the most highly-anticipated UFC fight card of the year.
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