Las Vegas, NV — Just a few years ago, Thiago Santos was considered perhaps the most imposing fighter in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.
“Marreta” was very much the sledgehammer he was named after, punishing a trio of opponents with heavy hands upon his arrival in the 205lb weight class. Opponents that included future champion Jan Blachowicz.
The pair share the UFC 259 card on Saturday, but they’re not fighting each other. Instead, Santos now looks to pull out of a two-fight skid: the Jon Jones UFC 239 title fight, which saw him sustain serious damage to his knees, and Santos’ return from that effort last year, where he was put away by Glover Teixeira.
The Teixeira fight raised a lot of questions, something Santos believes is “natural.” Speaking to media outlets during the UFC 259 media day in Las Vegas, and again during a virtual media session, Santos stated that against his fellow Brazilian, “I felt my timing was off, because [I was out] a long time. But now I feel so good. I feel 100%. That fight, my last fight was a warm-up.”
At UFC 259, he added, “I believe I will do so much better than my last fight.”
When it comes to opponent Aleksandar Rakic, whose only blemish is a split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir, “he’s dangerous, he’s a tough guy, like everyone in this division.”
“This kind of fight excites me so much. I trained hard, I worked hard for this fight, and I will show Thiago Santos is better in this fight,” he stated during Wednesday’s online session. With a good camp behind him, “I’m ready for everything that he can bring to me. Striking, grappling, wrestling, I feel ready for everything.”
The big story at UFC 259 — one of several — is the arrival of Israel Adesanya, who fights Blachowicz for the light heavyweight title. Champ vs. Champ fights always excite fans. The bout has piqued Santos’ interest as well.
“It’s an interesting fight, you know? Let’s see how Adesanya is going to do in a new division,” said Santos. “I think he has a little bit of an advantage over Jan, because he’s faster, he’s longer, he keeps good distance, good movement, he moves good. But I’m sure if Jan touches him, Jan can knock him out.”
When reports of Adesanya coming into the fight in the low 190lb range were mentioned, Santos appeared to recognize that it came back to performance. “He don’t want to lose his speed. He’s too fast for 185, I believe in 205 he wants to keep this.”
But does Israel Adesanya deserve an immediate title shot, even as a defending middleweight champ? On that front, Santos was a little more reserved.
“About deserve? In my opinion, he doesn’t. Because he’s a middleweight. He doesn’t have any fights in light heavyweight. But I understand business. It’s about the business.” The UFC needs to make its money, Santos acknowledged. “It is what it is. I need to do my job, win my fight, and then we’re going to see what happens after.”
Watch the full UFC 259 media day scrum with Thiago Santos above. The event takes place this Saturday, March 6 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.