Alex Pereira’s journey to becoming a UFC middleweight champion was far from easy with many twists and turns. As a youngster working in a tire shop in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, he was drawn into a world of alcohol and disappointment. However, Pereira soon realized that becoming an athlete could change his life, as he saw sports saving people.
Growing up in a challenging environment, Pereira had no talent for Brazil’s most popular sport, soccer, and often found himself getting involved in street fights. After discovering martial arts, he sought out a local gym, where he met his coach, Wilson Nunes.
Despite initially showing some quality during his first trial, Pereira still had a lot to learn. In order to succeed, his coach, Belocqua Wera, advised him to learn the technique rather than relying on pure strength.
Pereira had no idea about the scale of the kickboxing world, he agreed to a plan to become the world’s best kickboxer, and Wera would do anything in his power to turn this into reality. However, the road to the top was fraught with difficulties.
Wera recalls difficulties in bringing Pereira into the gym due to his humble background. Moreover, Pereira was still battling addiction, and when his coach began to train him, he was drinking one liter of cachaça, a popular Brazilian distilled drink made from fermented sugarcane juice, per day.
Wera saw the harms of alcohol in Pereira and offered him a traditional indigenous recipe to “heal” his body. Pereira’s grandparents were also indigenous, and this helped him to reconnect with his ancestors’ spirit, which was something that Wera brought back using a combination of dance to bring peace of mind and spirit. This reconnection helped Pereira to become the WGP kickboxing champion.
Wera coached Pereira until he decided to leave for GLORY, where he became a two-division titleholder, and eventually, the UFC. His style still reflects the jaguar style, a variation of traditional strikes with different body angles while having both feet still planted on the ground, which is not commonly seen in boxing.
jaguar style helped him in his first fight with Israel Adesanya, and Wera is confident that he will succeed again in their rematch, which is set to headline UFC 287. Wera advises Pereira to start the first round like he finished the fifth, with his kickboxing style.