Erik Perez is not giving up on his championship aspirations.

The veteran fighter is determined to make a title run under the Bellator banner in hopes of one day capturing the promotion’s 135-pound title. Perez (19-8 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) joined the promotion in 2019 on a five-fight winning steak with victories with Combate Global and the UFC. Although he entered Bellator with good momentum, “Goyito” has been unable to get his hand raised in the two bouts he’s competed in for the promotion.

Now returning on Friday at Bellator 258 in Uncasville, Conn., Perez is out to get back on his wining ways and kick off a campaign for the title.

“I feel at the best moment, physically and mentally,” Perez told MMA Junkie in his native Spanish. “I’m mature. I’m experienced. I’m stronger than ever. If I’m being honest, I feel at my best in all aspects. I want to fight as long as my body permits, and I don’t think all the fights that I’ve had in my twenties in the UFC have affected me, so I’m going to keep fighting – and, like always, with my goals in mind, and being a Bellator champion is one of them.

“Obviously, I know the journey is long, but I think with a few impressive performances like the one you will see on Friday, I’ll be able to get there fast.”

Two straight losses is in no way the start any fighter would like to have in a new promotion. Perez knows he enters his bout against Blaine Shutt at Bellator 258 under less-than-ideal circumstances, but he says he’s in no way affected by the start of his Bellator career.

“This is how things have unfolded, and it’s just a matter of learning from them,” Perez explained. “The truth is that I don’t feel any pressure. I’m going in there, and I’m going to do my fight. Things haven’t presented themselves for things I can’t control. What I can control is training hard and being prepared. It’s been a lot of lessons in the fights, and now I come with my mind strong and my head held high. I’m here doing what I like to do and having fun.”

Perez was originally scheduled to fight Brian Moore, but Moore had to drop out of the bout after testing positive for  COVID-19 almost three weeks out from the fight. Now, Perez takes on Shutt, who brings in a grappling style to the fight as opposed to Moore’s boxing approach.

It’s definitely an adjustment, but Perez is just grateful Bellator was able to keep him on Friday’s card.

“I’m thankful to be fighting this Friday, and for Bellator to quickly find a replacement that I could fight,” Perez said. “So I don’t care who I’m fighting on Friday. I’m going to go in there and do my job. I’m well physically and mentally. I’m focused and the victory is coming.”

Bellator 258’s main card airs on Showtime following prelims on MMA Junkie.