Pereira (8-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) faces Jiri Prochazka (29-3-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) for the vacant 205-pound belt in Saturday’s main event Nov. 11 at Madison Sqaure Garden in New York.
For now, lightweight champion Islam Makhachev is Sonnen’s Fighter of the Year. Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) defeated featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski twice – once by decision and the other by first-round knockout at UFC 294.
“The current leader for Fighter of the Year is very clear: It’s Islam Makhachev,” Sonnen said on his YouTube channel. “No other fighter this year has taken out somebody to that degree. Islam only got two fights this year, but it was the same guy, Volkanovski, the undefeated, the unbeaten, the reigning world champion.
“While Islam slid past one, he then took on Volkanovski, who had another title defense and was the reigning, sitting world champion, and he didn’t get out of the first three minutes. The clear leader right now is Islam.”
But if former middleweight champion Pereira can beat Prochazka and win a second UFC title in just seven fights in the octagon, Sonnen would give him the crown of the best fighter of the year.
In 2023, Pereira lost his middleweight title to Israel Adesanya in April, then defeated ex-champ Jan Blachowicz in his light heavyweight debut in July. If he beats Prochazka on Saturday, Pereira will have held both the middleweight and light heavyweight belts in the span of 12 months.
“However, if Alex Pereira wins, he will within this calendar year – which is the specific dates of the question – have been the 185-pound champion and the 205-pound champion in the same calendar year, and therefore makes him Fighter of the Year per my vote,” Sonnen added.
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC 295.