“In that moment, I really didn’t think about the title. When I fought Royval, I was just thinking about my purses. Win the money and go back home with the purses. My body wasn’t 100%, but God gave me the victory and God gave me the bonus of the night.”
As he was being interviewed in the Octagon after the win, Pantoka looked outside the Octagon to see the then-champion, Moreno, doing play-by-play for the broadcast of his fight, and his mindset switched from money to UFC gold. He called for another fight with the champion, but little did he know things wouldn’t work out the way he hoped.
“In that moment, I thought my body could recover quickly and I could make a title fight with Moreno,” Pantoja said. “The same day the UFC called me to fight Moreno was the same day I was going to have surgery. It’s a special moment in my life, I’ll never forget it. I had to say no to fight for the belt.”
Pantoja’s injury paved the way for Moreno vs Figueiredo III, which Figueiredo won by a close unanimous decision. Pantoja had hoped that Moreno and Figueiredo would have their fourth fight settled by the time he was back, but that wasn’t the case.
Instead, an injury to Figueiredo pushed the UFC to make an interim UFC flyweight title fight between Moreno and Kara-France at UFC 277. That same night, Pantoja made his return to action, after nearly a full year of recovery and he beat Alex Perez by submission in under two minutes.