Erik ‘Goyito’ Perez explains why he threatened retirement from Combate Americas

It all seemed a little strange, on the surface: Erik Perez is on one of the hottest streaks of his entire career, but he was about to walk away from the sport of mixed martial arts.

The native of Nuevo Leon, Mexico nicknamed “Goyito,” who is known equally for putting an exciting fights as he is for wearing lucha libre masks to his fights, scored a first-round finish of Andres Ayala on Nov. 18 in Monterrey, then announced he was going to retire.

Come again?

The bantamweight, who is now based out of San Diego’s Alliance MMA, has won five fights in a row, including his first two since jumping over from the UFC to Combate Americas, the sport’s premiere Latin American promotion.

So why would Perez walk away when things seem to be going so well?

“Man, this sport, there’s a lot going on,” Perez recently told MMA Fighting. “I’ve got other things going on and this sport, there’s a lot of bumps and bruises and all that, and if the conditions aren’t right, then you’ve got to move on.”

One of those conditions, Perez said, was that he had been promised a title shot at inaugural Combate Americas bantamweight champ Jose Alday, and the company hadn’t come through with it, so he was prepared to leave if the bout wasn’t next on his agenda after his second straight finish in Combate.

“I got into this sport to become a world champion,” Perez said. “Part of the deal when I left the UFC and came over to Combate was that I was going to get a shot at the belt, and they hadn’t come through, so if they didn’t do it, I was going to retire.”

Combate brass agreed to give Perez a title shot, for a time and place to be determined, after “Goyito” threatened retirement, and while the whole scene may have come off as a little bit, let’s say, stage managed, there’s no doubting Perez’s sincerity in wanting to make it to the top.

“When you get into this sport, you dream of becoming world champion,” Perez said. “There’s no point in putting yourself through all this if you’re not aiming to be the best. I want to be the 135 and 145 pound champ and I’m not going to wait forever.”

In recent months, the UFC has made headlines from letting name, free-agent fighters who are still in their primes sign elsewhere, from Eddie Alvarez to Sage Northcutt.

Perez may have been something of the canary in the coal mine in this regard, as he jumped before such a thing became a thing.

Perez had built up quite a bit of buzz when he entered the UFC in 2012, taking each of his first three fights via finish. He then stumbled and lost two of three, but then rebounded to take each of his last three UFC bouts, with a split decision win over Felipe Arantes in Nov. 2016 in Mexico City being the final bout of his UFC contract.

So why did “Goyito” leave the UFC after going 7-2? Perez didn’t need a translator to explain.

“Dinero,” Perez said with a laugh. “Money. I want to make all the money. I want to be showered with money. Of course you want to be a champion in this sport but if you have to be a businessman. You have a short amount of time to do this and you have to make all the money you can. So the UFC didn’t want to pay me and Combate Americas did and that was a pretty simple for me.”

Perez made headlines earlier this year when he took his lucha libre persona to the next level and actually stepped into the ring, teaming with wrestling star Alberto Al Patron in for a match in Tijuana. He concedes that perhaps when his real fighting days are done, the simulated game could be next.

“It was so much fun, man,” Perez said. “I really enjoyed it. It’s more tough than it looks, I was hurting the next day, but yeah, I enjoyed this and maybe it is something I can do when my fighting days are done.”

But despite what “Goyito” threatened in the cage, that day does not appear to be coming any time soon.

“It’s all good now. I’m making money, I’m getting my chance to be a world champion, I’m happy,” Perez said. “Lucha libre can wait.”

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