‘Honored’ Alex Pereira loves Jon Jones fight pitch, but needs UFC green light for heavyweight shift

Alex Pereira admits he was caught off guard Friday morning as the phone notifications rolled in.

During a UFC 301 fight week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil that he won’t compete on, the promotion’s light heavyweight champion Pereira (10-2 MMA, 7-1 UFC) the center of attention once again thanks to a series of tweets by UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

“Yeah, it caught me by surprise, especially after I saw the first message. I didn’t really expect to see that this morning. I know we’ve been doing a very good job. There’s all this hype around me right now. I spoke about going up to heavyweight to fight on this card. I knew it’d catch some eyes eventually. I didn’t expect it to be so fast. But I was very honored and it was a very respectful message, so it was fun.”

As he recovers from multiple surgeries, Jones (27-1 MMA, 21-1 UFC) hasn’t expressed interest in fights beyond a pending showdown with Stipe Miocic, proposed a bout vs. Pereira and called it “the biggest matchup in MMA history.”

Having already won UFC titles at middleweight and light heavyweight, Pereira has teased a move to heavyweight in attempt to capture an unprecedented third divisional championship.

The biggest hurdle has been getting the UFC to sign off on the move. Pereira thinks the potential superfight could twist the promotional brass members’ arms, however.

“When I said I would like to move up to heavyweight, I was very excited about that,” Pereira said. “But the UFC didn’t seem to keen on that at the time. Once I saw there was no real interest from them on me going up, I spoke with my team, with my managers, and decided to focus on the weight class that I’m champion in, which is light heavyweight. I’m doing very good there. We kind of left heavyweight on the backseat until something changed. Now, I guess a lot of interest has been generated and we have to see what the promotion wants.

“… He is on the sidelines for a while and he wants to do another fight before that. So there is a lot of things to happen in the meantime and I just want to be active. I just want to fight. If the UFC wants to tell me, ‘Hey, this is the path for you to get that fight at heavyweight,’ so I can change my plans, that works. But if I don’t have anything, I prefer not to stray away from what we have decided. To be thinking about things and not have them come to fruition would be just draining for me and for the fans. That’s definitely a fight I would love to do. For me to move up to heavyweight, I need some time – but not that much time because I’m already a big guy. So if they give me the green light and say, ‘Hey, this fight is happening,’ I’m 100 percent getting ready for it.”

Pereira declined to theorize if he could obtain “GOAT” status with a win over who many consider to be the greatest fighter ever in Jones. He spoke with nothing but respect for Jones and

“That’s the last thing on my mind,” Pereira said. “What I think about this is to be ready, to be training, to keep winning titles, and be focused. Everything else is for the public to decide. Whatever the people who are watching and see my accomplishments there, it’s up to them to decide if I’m the GOAT or not. That’s not something for me to decide. I just want to be ready, do my job, and be the best fighter I can be.”

“… We are both professionals. I have nothing against Jon. I respect him a lot. We’re both trying to build something. He has an amazing career and has built a lot. I’m building a lot on my career as well. I think we would make for a very entertaining matchup for the fans. If this ends up happening, I believe it’d be fantastic. I would be looking forward to it.

While much is uncertain about what the future holds, particularly as Jones has at least one fight before a future showdown, Pereira sees some undeniable truths about the fight proposal: the fight would attract massive attention – and deliver.

“We have the fans. We have the athletes. We have the organization,” Pereira said. “I feel if you ask the fans, of course, they’ll be all over it and hyped up for that fight. There are other athletes in the division that need to move on and all that, so we need to see what’s going on. If the UFC gives us the green light and they show interest, we can make that happen. I’m sure everyone is going to enjoy it.”

“… It would be a war. It would be a very entertaining showcase for the fans. With all the experience and skillset that Jon has, but also with all the abilities I’ve been growing during my MMA career, all the preparation I’ve been doing and the improvements I’m having. I think it would be a great championship (fight) and everyone would be entertained by that.”

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie