MMA fans are still buzzing about the enthralling flyweight title clash between Alexandre Pantoja and Brandon Moreno at UFC 290 recently, but the new champion isn’t in a hurry to book a rematch and has instead turned his attention to a potential title eliminator between Brandon Royval and Amir Albazi to establish his next opponent.
“I think the most reasonable move is them fighting each other,” Pantoja said on the Trocação Franca podcast. “They’re both saying, ‘I’m next, I’m next, I’m next,’ and they’re both fresh, so let them fight and the winner comes [fight me]. It’s only fair to everybody.
“Like I said, the division was stuck for a long time, and I was one of the guys waiting on the doorstep. It would be nice to see the division moving again.”
Royval is currently ranked No.4 in the division after winning his last three fights in a row, and he was also the back-up fighter for the UFC 290 title clash between Moreno and Pantoja.
Meanwhile, Albazi is one place above him at No.3 after he recently extended his UFC winning streak to five fights with a split-decision victory over Kai Kara-France.
That does leave two fighters above them on the flyweight ladder though, and of course one of them is the man Pantoja just beat, Moreno, but having now beaten him three times (once on TUF and twice in the UFC), Pantoja feels it’s not the right time to face him yet again.
“It will be good for Moreno to do a non-title fight now,” Pantoja noted.
Meanwhile, another former champion Deiveson Figueiredo still holds the No.2 contender spot. All signs had pointed to him moving up to bantamweight and potentially fighting Dominick Cruz next, but with Moreno no longer the flyweight champ he might be changing his mind.
“Deiveson said he wants to go back [to flyweight],” Pantoja said. “I really don’t understand it. Deiveson is crazy. They offered him Manel Kape, a super interesting fight, and he said no because Manel Kape is ranked too low. When I fought Manel Kape, I was No. 5 and he was unranked. When you want to fight, there’s no excuse. Manel Kape is a super tough fighter.
“Deiveson said he’s going up to bantamweight, I heard he’s fighting Dominick Cruz, and then, after I win, he says, ‘No, I can easily go down to flyweight, I’m at a good weight.’ I like him, he’s a good kid, he came from the bottom and was a dominant fighter in the division for a long time, but I think he got lost and made bad decisions. But he’s a champion, a really good fighter.”
So one thing that’s clear is that Pantoja is not short of options for his next fight, but regardless of his own personal preference it’s likely going to be down to the UFC brass to decide who gets to fight him first.