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Artem Vakhitov beat Alex Pereira in kickboxing – and wants UFC fight

Four years ago, a notable kickboxer transitioned fully into MMA with the hope of pursuing and beating a longtime rival in a different combat sport.

That man’s name was Alex Pereira and his dream became a reality when he defeated Israel Adesanya at UFC 281 to win gold. Now Artem Vakhitov hopes to repeat history, but is gunning for Pereira.

Vakhitov and Pereira are tied at one win apiece under the GLORY Kickboxing banner. Pereira won the first meeting in January 2017 by split decision. Eight months later, Vakhitov avenged the loss by majority decision. The fight was the final defeat of Pereira’s kickboxing career – two months before he debuted in the UFC.

There’s mutual respect between the two teams, Vakhitov, a two-time GLORY light heavyweight champion said – but that doesn’t mean his ambition to win a lifetime series vs. “Poatan” is any lesser.

“We are 1-1 against each other, so the next fight will be the trilogy fight and I think that will be a big fight for fans all over the world,” Vakhitov recently said in a written statement to MMA Junkie. “We are both top-level strikers. We are throwing punches, knees and kicks constantly. Watch our two fights in GLORY Kickboxing and then imagine we are in the UFC octagon with small gloves on, and I’ll be very confident for that fight. Alex will be completely analyzed by Vitaly Miller and the Kuzbass Team. We will have all his mistakes identified and I will be fully prepared to take advantage when I step in there.”

Russia’s Vakhitov, 33, is 2-1 in professional MMA since his debut in 2023. His debut was a loss due to an elbow injury, but Vakhitov has returned with back-to-back TKO finishes in less than two minutes combined. Vakhitov has started training at Kill Cliff FC in Florida to sharpen his skills.

“I’m working on my MMA game every day,” Vakhitov said. “MMA was always interesting for me, anyway, but obviously I am very motivated by the prospect of getting that trilogy match with Pereira. He’s a superstar now and I am happy for him, but when I hear people saying he’s the best striker in the world … Well, I think it’s time for MMA fans to learn about me and my team – put it that way.”

Many fighters say they will one day beat a UFC champion, but few are able to. Vakhitov, however, thinks he has the tools to dethrone one of the UFC’s biggest stars. He sees weaknesses, believe it or not.

“His biggest weakness is that he is all attack – he has no defense,” Vakhitov said. “Because of his lack of defense, he is open to taking a lot of punches to the head if he’s facing a skilled striker. You saw that in his second fight with Adesanya. He got caught because he leaves a lot of openings for people who know what they are doing.

“These other guys haven’t done well against Alex because their striking isn’t at a high enough level. They aren’t confident against him and they think he’s unbeatable, so in their heart they are already defeated before the fight starts. But I have beaten him before in pure striking competition and I am sure I’ll do it again if we can get our trilogy match in the UFC.”

Be sure to visit the MMA Junkie Instagram page and YouTube channel to discuss this and more content with fans of mixed martial arts.

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