MMA News

UFC 212's Leonardo Santos on opportunities and rankings: 'It needs to be a little more fair'



Like any other UFC fighter, “The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2” winner Leonardo Santos still dreams of having a belt around his waist, but he’s a bit puzzled as to what it might take to get there.

Currently riding a four-fight winning streak and unbeaten in the UFC, the lightweight wanted a top-10 opponent for his return after a win over Adriano Martins at October’s UFC 204 event. He did what he could, putting in the request and issuing callouts, staying ready to hop in if higher-ranked competition became available.

Tired of waiting, Santos (16-3-1 MMA, 5-0-1 UFC) figured he might as well fight on the same card as current UFC featherweight champion and Nova Uniao stablemate Jose Aldo. And that meant taking on rising but unranked Olivier Aubin-Mercier (9-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) at the UFC 212 pay-per-view event in Rio de Janeiro.

Santos expects a good fight at Jeunesse Arena on June 3. But that doesn’t take away from the frustration of not knowing what to do in order to get some love for his efforts.

“I don’t understand the criteria,” Santos told MMAjunkie. “That’s what makes me a little upset. Because when you come into the UFC, you think that the more you win, the more you climb to the top 15, top 10, top five, and maybe some day the belt. And we see that’s not really how it is.

“I understand it; it’s a business. Cool. But it has to a little fair to who’s doing a good job – to those who might not be talking a lot but are showing it in the octagon.”

Santos has been in the UFC since June 2013, when he beat William Macario at welterweight to become the “TUF: Brazil” winner. After a draw with Norman Parke in Santos’ first 155-pound bout, he earned four straight wins, which included a surprising first-round TKO of up-and-coming Kevin Lee.

Unsure of the logic behind the official UFC rankings, which he points out never fully acknowledged fellow countryman Francisco “Massaranduba” Trinaldo’s now-snapped seven-fight winning streak, Santos wonders what factors actually count.

“Is it about being controversial?” Santos asked. “In terms of records, I won’t even give my example. I’ll give Trinaldo’s: He fought tough guys, the same way he fought tough guys. He was coming off seven wins in a row. You can argue that he doesn’t sell or that he doesn’t speak English. Well, I speak English, so?”

For the goal-oriented Santos, what’s frustrating is the unknown. At 37, with a lauded grappling background, he’s aware that he’s not going to be around forever. For now, he is healthy and willing. But given the efforts put into such a demanding career, he wishes there were more rewards in sight.

“You need to stay motivated,” Santos said. “The event needs to help you stay motivated. Making more money, making it to the top, fighting for the belt – that’s why we’re there. The money, the title, the conquest. If you take too much of it away, we lose motivation. That’s the truth. How long will I have the motivation to trade punches with people and not see my name among the top, not to be able to fight these guys who claim to be the top 10 in the world?

“I consider myself a top-10 (fighter), but when are they going to give me that chance to be there? To do a main event? We think about all those things. And, for me, it gets harder and harder. The sport we’re in is tough, so if you don’t have a great head or your body is not following up … it’s hard.”

Santos is not alone in his troubles. While lightweight Al Iaquinta is the most recent – and possibly most profane – example of someone who’s not particularly happy with the UFC, Santos’ teammate, Aldo, recently went as far as announcing his retirement due to his own feelings of mistreatment by the promotion.

Santos hasn’t given up on his ultimate dream of becoming a UFC champion. And he feels more than apt to get there. But discouraged by what he sees happening with some of his own colleagues, he can’t help but ask himself some difficult questions.

“I’ve always set goals for my career,” Santos said. “The things that can be reached quicker are my goals, and the dreams, which will happen naturally, are way up there. But it makes you wonder. Although I have faith that I’ll make it, that I have the talent and the skill, you see people around you having a tougher and tougher time, you think, ‘What about me now? Will I make it?’ So, in the middle of this dream, you start adding thoughts like, ‘I need to fight more to make money.’ But then you get lost. You can lose, or not fight well.

“It needs to be a little more fair so we know where we’re going, what’s happening. If I win three more, will I get a title shot? Will I make it to the top 10? Will my contract improve if I do this? This is what we wonder. We don’t really understand that. We put a lot of trust in ‘Dede’ (Andre Pederneiras, Nova Uniao’s head coach), and sometimes he answers, ‘I don’t know what to tell you.’

“If he doesn’t know it, let alone the rest of us, who are just training and watching it unfold, we just close our fists, bite down on our mouth guards and scrap, hoping we’re blessed by the divine light. ‘Oh, this boy deserves the belt; this boy deserves to be in the top 10.’”

For now, Santos can focus only on what he can control. And that is what he brings to the scrap against Aubin-Mercier.

“He’s more of a ground guy, so I think it will be a good fight,” Santos said. “I see his weaknesses and strengths, but I don’t see a lot that can surprise me. A fight is a fight; we walk into it 50-50. But I’ll be well trained to impose my game on him.”

For more on UFC 212, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Source link

Recommended for you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *