Alex Perez wants to ‘be the guy that solves that puzzle’ of unbeaten Tatsuro Taira in UFC on ESPN 58 main event

Alex Perez is happy to put his ranking on the line against undefeated Tatsuro Taira in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 58 main event.

Former flyweight title challenger Perez (24-8 MMA, 6-4 UFC) considers himself to be one of the true fighters in his weight class. He thinks he’s proving that again by accepting a five-round fight against surging Japanese contender Taira (15-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in a headlining act at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas (ESPN2, ESPN+).

“People ask me, ‘Why did you take this fight? You could’ve got a top-five guy?’ I’m just here to fight,” Perez told MMA Junkie at Thursday’s media day. “If I keep winning, the title shot will be here. This guy’s a top prospect. He has a lot of hype behind him. I can take his hype when I beat him this weekend.”

Perez, 32, had been plagued with injuries and fight cancellations over several years leading up to UFC on ESPN 55 in April, where he reintroduced himself with a second-round knockout of Matheus Nicolau.

Now Perez, No. 5 in the official UFC rankings, looks to build momentum against No. 13-ranked Taira and show he’s not going to be used as a stepping stone.

“He’s 15-0 for a reason,” Perez said. “I know he was a champ outside the UFC. He’s fought really good guys. People are like, ‘Ah, it’s going to be an easy fight.’ He’s tough, very good striker, doesn’t really get hit a lot, very good grappler. Usually a lot of Japanese guys I’ve trained with in the past are very good grapplers and very good strikers. They don’t really have that blend. He has that blend.

“He is a tough guy. He’s very good. If you’ve seen his fights, he’s been able to drop people, been able to sub people, been able to go to decision. I’m excited for the challenge. I want to be the guy that solves that puzzle.”

Perez is confident in his chances to get the job done, and he said so long as he stays within himself, he will be successful.

“The key to victory for me is just go out there and have fun and do my thing,” Perez said. “When I’m having fun and when I’m working, no one can beat me.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC on ESPN 58.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie