WA’s Steve Erceg swaps booze for UFC success

Rising UFC star Steve Erceg has revealed he is considering giving up alcohol for the rest of his career as he attempts to make the most of his time in the sport.

Erceg will be crowned flyweight champion if he can upset current holder Alexandre Pantoja in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday night (Sunday EST).

The fight is the ultimate David versus Goliath battle, given Erceg’s UFC career is only three fights old and he will be a marked man on enemy territory.

Although luck has played a greater role in giving Erceg a title shot far earlier than expected, it also marks a reward for the efforts and sacrifices the 28-year-old has made over the past decade.

“People only see the last year I guess, the last three fights, because that’s when media and the UFC juggernaut takes over,” Erceg told AAP.

“But I’ve been doing this for 10 years. I’ve been fighting and training consistently the whole time.

“I’ve missed holidays, I’ve missed birthdays, I’ve stopped drinking for long periods of time to make sure that I’m the best athlete and the best I can be.

“For a while, I would only drink at Christmas time.

“As a young man you went out drinking with your mates, and I very quickly realized I couldn’t perform at training if I was doing that.

“So I had to make a decision of whether I wanted to be really good or I wanted to have fun, and I chose to be really good.”

As Christ is his witness, Erceg says he may swear off alcohol for the rest of his career. (HANDOUT/UFC)

The safety factor of being sober while out at night has also played a role in Erceg’s decision.

“I just think people on a night out can cause a lot of trouble,” he said.

“I want to make sure that if I’m out having fun with friends, I don’t have to put myself in a position where I’m going to get hurt because I can’t defend myself or can’t talk myself out of a situation.

“Honestly, I’m thinking about potentially not drinking until my career is done.

“I just think (by stopping alcohol), your body doesn’t have to fight the inflammation and all the things that go along with a big bender.

“We’ll make the decision on that soon.”

Pantoja (27-5) enters the bout as a strong favorite, but also under immense pressure to retain his crown in front of his adoring fans.

Erceg, the 10th ranked challenger in the flyweight division, doesn’t care what the betting odds say.

“It doesn’t bother me – underdog, favorite, it doesn’t matter,” he said.

“At the end of the day, we’re both going in there to fight each other.

“It doesn’t matter what everyone else’s opinion is of the fight. One guy is going to come out victorious, and I fully plan on that being me.”