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IRVINE — Former Selma High wrestling coach and Lemoore native Alex Perez described winning his UFC debut as “amazing” when the mixed-martial arts promotion held its first live event in the Save Mart Center last December.

“Not too many people could ever fight in their hometown,” Perez said. “Well down the street from my hometown where the whole family, the whole community could come out there and watch.

“It was an amazing feeling and opportunity, and I was happy to be a part of that show. Hopefully, the UFC comes back [to Fresno].”

At UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno last December, Perez defeated Carls John de Tomas by submission at the 1:54 mark of the second round for his first official victory in the promotion. He followed that win with a victory against Eric Shelton by unanimous decision on Feb. 24 at UFC on Fox 28.

Perez looks to keep his winning streak going against Jose Torres in a flyweight bout for the promotion’s UFC 227 event Aug. 4 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Perez will bring a 20-4 (2-0 in UFC) record against Torres, who is going into the fight with an undefeated 8-0 (2-0) record.

“He’s good, he’s undefeated for a reason,” Perez said about Torres. “He’s tough, he’s well-rounded, he was a champion in two weight classes in a different organization for a reason. I’m taking him very seriously.”

Before Perez began his tenure in the UFC, he spent time as an assistant coach for the wrestling team at Selma High School. He was also a wrestling standout at Lemoore High and West Hills College.

Selma co-head coach Joey Areyano said Perez provided the “young” pair of eyes that the coaching staff needed at the time.

“Having Alex fresh off the college wrestling scene was great too,” Areyano said. “He brought that college wrestling pace into the room. It set the standard for our kids to how hard they should be working to wrestle at the next level.”

Before fighting in the UFC, Perez fought in matches at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino where he held the Tachi Palace Fights’ 125-pound belt. He also fought in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance (now known as Legacy Fighting Alliance) when the promotion held an event in Visalia in 2016.

When Perez began pursuing a career in the octagon, it was the start of a journey that would prove to be worthwhile for the Lemoore native.

Perez would sporadically commute from Lemoore to Orange County to attend various fight camps held by Team Omaya in Irvine, where he currently trains full time. During this time, Perez was working at a freight company in Fresno and would save his money to train in Irvine for a couple of weeks or a month. He continued this process for several years.

“Ultimately, there was an opportunity for him to move down here to Irvine,” Team Omaya general manager Ron Scolesdang said. “He bit the bullet, gathered all his things, moved down and he’s been down here ever since. He’s definitely on the right track and he’s pursuing his dream and getting one step closer to his UFC goals every single day."

Perez earned a UFC contract after winning his fight on season one of Dana White’s Contender Series last August.

Perez doesn’t want to take his time with Team Oyama and the UFC for granted.

“All the struggle I went through getting here made me the person that I am,” Perez said. “It made me realize to cherish the moment…because it could come and go. I’ve seen people lose two fights in a row and get cut.”

Perez got involved with the Selma wrestling coaching staff in the youth program when current Bears’ wrestler Jace Luchau was part of the team. Perez has a close relationship with the Luchau family. 

The former Lemoore Tiger eventually made it the Selma High School coaching staff which allowed him “to coach some of the best kids in the state and the nation.” Perez said he learned many things about the sport from co-head coach Sam Lopez and the rest of the staff.

“Those guys are tough,” Perez said. “They represent their town well. Every time you see a Selma kid on the mat, you know it was going to be a hard fought match even if they lost.”

When Perez steps into the octagon against Torres at the Staples Center, the Lemoore native said their bout could be “fight of the night.” For the local fans watching his fight, Perez wants to make the Central Valley proud no matter what the outcome is.

“I’m hoping to go out there and represent everyone well, win or lose” Perez said. “I’m going to go out there and give it my all. On my mouthpiece it says Lemoore, it says '559' on all of my stuff and [I'm] going to rep the Central Valley the best I can.”

Perez’s flyweight bout with Torres is currently scheduled on the preliminary card that will air in the promotion’s streaming service UFC Fight Pass. UFC 227 is headlined by a bantamweight bout between T. J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt.

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Jeremiah Martinez can be reached at 559-583-2413 or jmartinez@hanfordsentinel.com

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