Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Thiago Santos hoped to secure a shot at newly-crowned UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz with a win over Glover Teixeira in the main event of UFC Vegas 13 on Saturday. But Israel Adesanya’s announced light heavyweight title fight ruined his plans.
Santos, who holds a knockout victory over the Polish 205-pound champion, admits he was bothered by UFC’s matchmaking decision. But he told MMA Fighting he won’t give up hope until everything gets signed and delivered.
“I already knew nothing was definitive,” Santos said of the change of plans in the light heavyweight title picture. “We never know what will happen until the contract is signed, so [UFC President Dana [White] can say… he said the winner [of Santos-Teixeira] would fight for the belt, and now said it’s going to be Adesanya. I was upset at first when I saw the news, but then I calmed down and thought, ‘Why?’ Anything can happen.
“He might change in the end. We’re in a pandemic, injuries, anything can happen. I’ll continue doing my work, I’ll do my best to win against Glover and do what I have to do. If Adesanya gets the fight, I’ll talk to my manager and coaches to see the best options, if I’m doing one more fight. I don’t know. I don’t have much to say about this when there is no contract signed and things aren’t certain.”
Adesanya has never lost in 20 professional MMA fights, including four championship bouts in the UFC, and will make his light heavyweight debut against Blachowicz. “Marreta” also made a career at 185 pounds before he moved up a division and won three in a row to challenge then-champion Jon Jones.
“It’s not about fair, right? I understand the company’s side,” Santos said of Adesanya’s immediate title shot. “They have to make money, they have to have money to pay us.
“It’s a good match-up for [Adesanya]. Blachowicz can win, of course, but it’s a good fight for Adesanya. I think he has an advantage.”
UFC Vegas 13 is Santos’ first fight since a pair of surgeries that followed a failed bid for Jones’ title at UFC 239 in July 2019. The Teixeira clash was originally scheduled for September, but got postponed twice after both Brazilians tested positive for COVID-19.
“It’s very odd, it’s a long time without fighting, but I’m enjoying every moment before the fight and can’t wait to enter the octagon again,” Santos said. “I’ve never been sidelined for so long, but I’m happy to be back. I tried to look on the bright side of things. I had more time to prepare and evolve.”
Santos and Teixeira have scored more than three quarters of their MMA wins by stoppage, and “Marreta” won’t change his aggressive style now.
“I’m a striker by nature and I’ll always get in there to trade,” Santos said. “I could get in there with the best striker there is, that’s what I’ll try to do. … Glover is very smart and I think he’ll try what’s best for him. If he feels it’s not going well for him on the feet, he’ll definitely use his wrestling and try to take me down. He’s very smart and experienced.”