Pereira blasts Hill in Round 1 to retain UFC crown

LAS VEGAS — Alex Pereira continued his run as one of UFC’s most dynamic big-fight athletes.

Pereira has already won two championships at New York’s Madison Square Garden. And on Saturday, he knocked out former champ Jamahal Hill to retain the UFC light heavyweight title in the main event of UFC 300 — one of the biggest events in promotion history — at T-Mobile Arena. The finish came at 3 minutes, 14 seconds of the first round after one of Pereira’s trademark left hooks.

The finish will live on highlight reels forever. Hill kicked Pereira low, prompting referee Herb Dean to step in and try to pause the fight. Pereira held up his right hand, stopping the official from intervening. Pereira then blasted Hill with the left hook and followed with violent punches on the ground.

“I was gauging the distance and timing,” Pereira said through an interpreter. “Everything went perfect.”

Pereira said the groin kick hurt him a little, but he was just starting to figure out that distance and didn’t want to have to reset if the bout was paused. UFC CEO Dana White lauded Pereira not only for the performance but also the style points he gained for how it ended.

“He got hit in the groin,” White said. “He was like, ‘Nuh uh,’ [to Dean] and then knocks [Hill] out. … That was incredibly gangster.”

Pereira landed 24 of 30 significant strikes, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He has landed 63% of his significant strikes in UFC, which is the fourth-best mark in the promotion’s history. Pereira has eight knockouts in 10 career wins.

Hill relinquished the title last summer after rupturing his left Achilles tendon in a pickup basketball game. Pereira won the vacant belt by knocking out former champ Jiří Procházka in November at UFC 295 in New York.

Coming in, ESPN had Pereira ranked No. 3 in its pound-for-pound rankings.

Afterward, Pereira said he wanted to get right back in the Octagon and fight at UFC 301 on May 4 in his native Brazil. Pereira said he would like to do so at heavyweight, which would be his third weight class in UFC.

“I want this fight,” Pereira said. “I’m not hurt. Nothing happened.”

That wasn’t completely true. White said Pereira suffered a broken toe while training for the fight.

“I had to just push through,” Pereira said.

White said Pereira should probably pump the brakes on a move up in weight.

“The heavyweight division is nasty,” White said. “I don’t know if that’s the right move for him. He looked damn good tonight in the division he’s in.”

Pereira (10-2) is the quickest fighter to win two UFC titles in two divisions (seven fights). The Connecticut resident knocked out Israel Adesanya to win the UFC middleweight title in 2022 before dropping the title back to Adesanya last year. Pereira, 36, is a former two-division champion in Glory Kickboxing and a Hall of Famer in that promotion.

Hill (12-1, 1 NC) had won four straight coming in. The Chicago native, who fights out of Michigan, beat Glover Teixeira, Pereira’s coach and training partner, to win the UFC light heavyweight title at UFC 283 in January 2023. Hill, 32, was the first Dana White’s Contender Series alum to win a UFC championship.

“I don’t let this belt go to my head,” Pereira said. “I have to go in here and win this belt every time to be champion.”

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