New UFC champion Alexandre Pantoja worked as Uber Eats driver just two years ago

Alexandre Pantoja has revealed that he worked as an Uber Eats driver to make ends meet, just two years before winning the UFC flyweight title.

Pantoja outpointed Brandon Moreno at UFC 290 on Saturday (8 July) to take the flyweight belt from the Mexican, whom he had beaten twice before.

The moment capped off a remarkable journey to the gold for Pantoja, 33, who was struggling financially during the Covid pandemic and had to take on extra work to support his family, whom he sent from Florida back to their native Brazil for some time.

“That’s about sacrifice for me,” Pantoja said on The MMA Hour on Monday (10 July). “I won the fight with Manel [Kape, in February 2021] and used the money as down payment for the house, and bringing my family back was the most important for myself.

“Money was short, and my wife started to clean houses, and I started to drive Uber Eats. But I’d do this again if I needed, you know? It’s not just about myself, this is about my family and my kids – my two boys.”

In his next fight, in August 2021, Pantoja submitted Brandon Royval and won a $50,000 performance bonus, meaning he was able to give up his side job.

“One week before the fight, I’m delivering Uber Eats, it’s raining and I’m sick,” the newly-crowned champion said. “When I go to fight week, I’m very sick, and I’m very scared of getting Covid again. And I just prayed it’s not Covid, because I just had one month for my bills, you know?

“When I made weight and everything is okay, I just say thank you for God, because I had a knee injury – my ACL was completely broken – and I was sick, but when I got the money [from] the fight, I know it was okay. I had six months [worth of money] to live, but then I won the fight, and I won the bonus. I [could] have surgery and relax for a couple of months and recover good.”

Pantoja would go on to submit Alex Perez in July 2022, and one year later he received his title shot, which played out as a thrilling back-and-forth clash with Moreno, whom Pantoja previously beat in 2016 and 2018. On Saturday, the Brazilian came out on top once again.

Pantoja (right) won a war with Brandon Moreno at UFC 290 (Getty Images)
Pantoja (right) won a war with Brandon Moreno at UFC 290 (Getty Images)

“The prophecy is true,” Pantoja said. “Everything I passed in my life, all the choices I chose, made me win the belt. I’m so happy for that. I gave my best that night, but I know I can do much better.

“I’m happy because I get the belt and everybody knows my history. That’s very important to me, because a lot of guys like me maybe think they never can come to the belt. Before I fight for the belt, I said on fight week I don’t need the belt, I have everything I need: my kids and my life, I have all the love I have, and I don’t need the belt to say I’m the champion.

“This belt is for everybody helping me to this moment.”

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