Alexandre Pantoja: Joseph Benavidez ‘needs to fight me first’ before Cejudo

Alexandre Pantoja

Alexandre Pantoja is already predicting an interim title fight for himself against Joseph Benavidez.

This Saturday, Alexandre Pantoja will be going up against rival Deiveson Figueiredo in a flyweight bout at UFC 240. Figueiredo has vocalized his expectation of a future interim title fight against Joseph Benavidez. However, Pantoja believes he should get Benavidez next.

If Pantoja beats Figueiredo at UFC 240, an interim title match against Benavidez could be in the cards. Pantoja believes not only is he deserving of the fight, but that Benavidez actually needs to further prove his worth if he wants to fight Henry Cejudo.

“If I win this fight, I want Benavidez,” Pantoja told MMA Junkie. “I think if Benavidez wants to fight Cejudo, he needs to fight me first. I want to fight Cejudo now. I think it’s a great opportunity to fight an Olympic gold medalist and a guy that has two belts.”

“The Messenger” Cejudo currently holds the UFC flyweight and bantamweight titles. He is riding a five-fight win streak that includes wins over Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw and Marlon Moraes.

Joseph Benavidez has fought twice in 2019 and won both times. His most recent bout was a second-round KO win against Jussier Formiga. Deiveson Figueiredo’s most recent fight was also against Jussier Formiga, but he lost to his fellow Brazilian. The was his first pro loss.

Pantoja is riding a three-fight win streak. Most recently he beat former UFC challenger Wilson Reis with an explosive first-round KO. Heading into his fight with Figueiredo, Pantoja knows the steaks are high.

“Deiveson is a tough opponent. He’s a very dangerous guy,” he said. “He’s like a Brazilian warrior, like an old-school fighter. I’ve been training all my life for this fight.

“I think all the fights are for the belt because you need step after step to win. If I win this fight, I think I need to fight Benavidez for the interim belt and wait for Cejudo to come back.”

Cejudo has been instrumental in training Pantoja. The two-division champ met the Brazilian during The Ultimate Fighter 24: Tournament of Champions season. Cejudo joined Pantoja in his home country of Brazil for training camp last year. The pair formed a close bond, and subsequently influenced each other’s fighting evolution. Many have noticed that Pantoja echoes the fighting style of Cejudo.

Pantoja shared his thoughts on Cejudo’s training influence:

“Cejudo is a good friend, I love this guy,” Pantoja said. “I learned a lot from Cejudo – not just game, but mentality. I have this fight on Saturday, and I need to prove that I’m ready for Benavidez.”

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 7/26/2019.