UFC welterweight Michel Pereira is dealing with a DUI case in Las Vegas, MMA Fighting has learned. The incident will not affect his upcoming fight with Santiago Ponzinibbio, which is set to be the co-main event of UFC Vegas 55 on Saturday at UFC APEX.
Speaking to MMA Fighting on Wednesday, Pereira said the situation “is already being handled by my attorney.” The incident happened between his previous fight in the UFC, a decisive victory over Andre Fialho on January 22 and a recent trip to Brazil in mid-March. The fighter said he does not remember the exact date of the incident.
Pereira added that he was also not responsible for the situation. The 28-year-old welterweight said he slept in the passenger seat while a friend drove the car, and when he woke up he thought the car had crashed; Pereira said his friend told him it was a close call.
“I was half asleep on a sunny day in Las Vegas so I looked at the car and saw nothing. [in regards to damage]”, Pereira said. “I told him, ‘I’ve had enough rest already, give me the car and I’ll drive.’ The police arrested me some time later and did all the procedures and questioned me about the accident. That’s when I saw the crash. It almost made me depressed.
“He came and did the breathalyzer. As I had drunk too much the day before, it was at the limit. He said, ‘You’re gonna have to come with me and wait six hours then [the level] decreases.”
Pereira claims he was tested some time later and passed. His lawyer is dealing with the situation now, Pereira said, and he doesn’t expect to have any more problems with the law because “I’ve never done anything here [in the United States] or in Brazil — this is my first case here.
MMA Fighting was not immediately able to verify Pereira’s alleged case; a search of the court records under his first name yielded no results.
Pereira left the United States some time later to visit his home state of Pará in Brazil and ran into visa issues trying to return to the United States with his wife. Pereira said his visa problem was not related to the DUI but rather to staying in the United States for more than six months on a tourist visa.
Pereira trained in Belém for his welterweight clash with Ponzinibbio and feels “very prepared” for the contest.
“I want to fight the best, I train to fight the best welterweights,” Pereira said. “Ponzinibbio is very good and has a name in the UFC. I don’t like fighting Brazilians – and he’s more Brazilian than Argentinian, isn’t he? – but he’s on my way. I have to become champion, and I have to fight the best in the division to get into the rankings.
“This fight will prove that I deserve to be in the top 15. Ponzinibbio is very tough, so I will prove to a lot of people that I am capable of being there. The UFC gives me a lot of good opportunities. They like what I do, and it’s very good for my career.
Pereira comes to UFC Vegas 55 on a four-fight winning streak over Andre Fialho, Niko Price, Khaos Williams and Zelim Imadaev, while Ponzinibbio looks to bounce back from a split decision setback to Geoff Neal in December. Pereira said they were both “two great strikers, so this fight has everything to end in a knockout.”
“I don’t see it lasting three rounds – we have everything to finish each other off,” Pereira said. “It’s going to be a war. His boxing is very good, he’s an aggressive and powerful guy, but I saw a lot of holes in his game, and I’m going to try to use that to my advantage. I also have a lot of holes in my game, and he probably saw that too, so it’s going to be a big war.