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What's 'Jacare' Souza supposed to do now? Seems he has two options

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On Friday, Ronaldo Souza danced. In a hotel room cluttered with empty water bottles, shirtless and smiling, “Jacare” celebrated his new UFC contract the day before his fight with Robert Whittaker at UFC on FOX 24.

This was a happy man. After initially looking like he might hold out for free agency, he agreed to a reported eight-fight deal, the terms of which were apparently worth dancing over.

Then he went out the next night and got thumped on until blood streaked down his face and onto the mat in front of him as he knelt there listening to referee Mario Yamasaki explain why he was all done for the evening.

It was a rough way to have his ascent up the middleweight ranks halted, and it brings some tough questions. Some of those are pointless now. Questions about what he should have done, who he should have fought, what contract he should have signed. That’s all been decided, for better or worse, leaving one big question still to be answered – now what?

Souza (23-5 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is 37. He’s got 30 professional fights worth of mileage on his body, plus more grappling tournaments than most people can name. He’s also in the division where even winning all your fights isn’t enough to guarantee you a title shot, as the last two people to beat him may soon discover for themselves.

So what’s an aging middleweight supposed to do? Seems to me there are two options, and both have their pros and cons.

The first is to forget all about the title. Heck, even forget about the rankings. These are already difficult times for anyone trying to plot a path to the top, since who knows when the powers that be will decide that their interests are better served by ignoring top contenders in favor of more profitable pay-per-view draws? So instead of thinking about what would advance your career, instead start thinking about what’d be fun for people to see.

“Jacare” as a light heavyweight? Hey, it’s not like that division couldn’t use some help. And if Demian Maia can’t get a crack at gold as a welterweight, maybe he’d be interested in a cross-divisional battle that would melt the faces of jiu-jitsu nerds everywhere.

The upside to that strategy is that it keeps you in relevant, interesting fights. The downside is, without a chance to claim a UFC title, you not only never get a chance to claim everlasting glory, you also have to face the fact that the truly big paydays may remain forever out of reach.

Then there’s door number two.

If Souza’s not ready to let his title hopes go, he can always start all over again. He can look around for other potential contenders who might help move him up the ladder. He can try poking at the champion from afar. He can stay by the phone and hope that a few key injuries or drug test failures result in a sudden change of fortunes, and honestly he might not even have to wait all that long.

The downside here is that you put your fate in someone else’s hands. You go back to playing the same game you’ve already tried, and that didn’t get Souza where he wanted to be the first time.

It’s got to be a hard truth to confront, especially when you just signed a new long-term contract that limits you to the confines of the UFC without confining them in any meaningful way to you. To accept that, with age and defeat, some doors may have been closed forever? That’s a kind of psychological resignation that must be tough for a person who can get pummeled by the likes of Whittaker (18-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) and still complain when the referee saves him from further punishment.

It also might be the savviest move “Jacare” could make at this point, if he can bring himself to make it. In a sport where you’re dancing one day and bleeding the next, sometimes it pays to be pragmatic.

For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 24, check out the UFC Events section of the site.



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