Sean Strickland will have a surprise UFC champion in his corner for UFC 297

  • Sean Strickland is looking to defend his middleweight title at UFC 297.
  • He'll have Alex Pereira in this corner on Saturday night.
  • Alex Pereira is the former middleweight champion and current light heavyweight champion.

Sep 9, 2023; Sydney, NSW, AUSTRALIA; Sean Strickland speaks at a press conference after defeating
Sep 9, 2023; Sydney, NSW, AUSTRALIA; Sean Strickland speaks at a press conference after defeating / Jasmin Frank-USA TODAY Sports
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Along with XTreme Couture head coach Eric Nicksick, Sean Strickland will have additional support in his corner.

In a last-second announcement, ESPN released that Strickland would be cornered by UFC light heavyweight champion Alex Pereira. Strickland and Pereira are former opponents but have since trained with each other on multiple occasions. Pereira won their 2022 meeting by first-round knockout.

ESPN's Marc Raimondi initially broke the news on X/Twitter.

Pereira's presence at the pay-per-view card in Toronto was initially announced at the UFC 297 press conference, though it was not known until fight night that he would be in Strickland's corner. Pereira received a major ovation from the crowd throughout fight week.

Alex Pereira has been a highlight in Canada amongst the fans

The hard-hitting champion's star power was evident leading up to UFC 297 as Pereira was one of the biggest stars of the week despite not competing on the card. Pereira's traction on social media was proof of his exponential rise to superstardom in the UFC.

Though the two champions are training partners and friends, Pereira will likely be nothing more than moral support for the middleweight champion. Pereira exclusively speaks Portuguese while Strickland purely speaks English.

Despite training for roughly a calendar year, rumors of the two fighters aligning increased ahead of UFC 292 as fans joked that Pereira desired to train Strickland to beat Israel Adesanya. Strickland would upset Adesanya to win the UFC belt against all odds, but Pereira was quick to dismiss fan assumptions of his influence on the outcome, remaining adamant that Strickland's performance was his own work.

With the release of Pereira being present in Strickland's corner on Jan. 20, it was not reported if the decision was made prematurely or if the champion made up his mind at the last minute. Strickland's close friend and teammate, Chris Curtis, is also competing on the card, which potentially could have opened up a spot for Pereira in his corner.

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