Thiago Santos: Fighting talent aside, Jon Jones will ‘be remembered as a doper’

RIO DE JANEIRO – Thiago Santos doesn’t have many bad things to say about Jon Jones when it comes to what the UFC champion is able to do inside the octagon.

In fact, if you ask Santos (21-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) to list his top fighters of all time, Jones (24-1 MMA, 18-1 UFC) appears in fourth place – behind only Fedor Emelianenko, Anderson Silva and Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira, in that order.

When it comes to what happens outside of the cage, though, “Marreta” is not as impressed by the 205-pound champion.

Speaking to reporters in Rio de Janeiro about their upcoming UFC 239 headliner in Las Vegas, the challenger said that, as phenomenal as Jones is as a fighter, he doesn’t see the champ as a good role model. And though that doesn’t affect him, particularly, Santos doesn’t look too kindly on the impression that “Bones” will leave behind.

“That’s his karma to carry,” Santos said in his native Portuguese while attending UFC 237. “He will be remembered as a doper, he will be remembered as someone who drives intoxicated. These are his things. I have to worry about not being remembered for that.

“It’s his life, if that’s how he wants to live it… It doesn’t bother me. Like I said, inside the octagon, his talent is undeniable. Outside of it, unfortunately, he’s not a good example. It’s what I think.”

Santos isn’t the first one to make this sort of assessment of Jones. Despite being overwhelmingly regarded as one of the best fighters to ever compete in the octagon, the impact of Jones’ issues with failed drug tests, as well as the infamous hit-and-run accident to which Santos alluded, is often brought into legacy conversations.

The latest Jones-related controversy began last December, with an atypical test finding prior to his UFC 232 rematch with Alexander Gustafsson. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) concluded that the failure was the result of residual metabolites from a previous failed test and Jones was cleared to compete, but the card had to be moved from Las Vegas to Inglewood, Calif., and the decision was met with mixed reactions from fans and fighters.

Jones defeated Gustafsson to re-claim the UFC’s 205-pound title and quickly agreed to defend it against Anthony Smith at UFC 235. Again, the metabolite showed up in tests, in what was attributed to a “pulsing” effect (UFC vice president of Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky addresses the situation here).

Jones has maintained he’s never knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs. Although he was found to be negligent and had to serve suspensions for his two previous anti-doping positives, they were ultimately traced back to contamination.

Since then, though, the word “picogram” has become regular in the MMA lexicon. Gustafsson, on his end, remained unconvinced by Jones’ innocence and called him a cheater prior to their UFC 232 encounter. Smith, in turn, said he simply did not care.

For his part, Santos admits he doesn’t have a lot of knowledge about what the whole “picogram” situation entails. But he isn’t indifferent to the idea of doping, as he believes in an even playing field.

“If it works a certain way for me – I’ve been tested 26 times – it has to be the same for him,” Santos said. “No picograms have ever shown up in me. Why are there (picograms) in him? Is he an extraterrestrial? I don’t know, it’s weird. They should look more into that.”

Either way, Santos has a bigger concern in mind when it comes to their July 6 headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

“I think what I’m afraid of the most is that he (expletive)s up before the 6th and the fight doesn’t happen,” Santos said. “That’s my biggest fear. That he messes up and the fight doesn’t happen. Because what we want is this fight.”

In the same chat with reporters, including MMA Junkie, Santos talked about his strategy for his first title match. And he had no problem admitting he saw no weaknesses in Jones, whom he assessed as an intelligent, adaptable and well-rounded fighter. His solution to a foe who seemed to do well everywhere, though, was simple: Make him suffer everywhere.

From what he’s heard, though, Santos will have to be prepared for more than an incredibly skilled opponent. As it turns out, Santos had some conversations with a prior opponent of Jones’ and received a tip about the champ’s strategies.

“I don’t know if that’s going to look bad for (Anthony) Smith, but he said that Jones is dirty,” Santos said. “A cheater. He uses things that sometimes the ref can’t see. Puts his hand on your eye. Uses non-valid things that sometimes the ref is not in a position to see. Then he hurts you, the ref doesn’t see it, doesn’t stop it and if you stop he’ll hit you and you’ll lose the fight. So, to watch out because he’s a little dirty, Smith told me.”

For more on UFC 239, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Thiago Santos admits ‘we haven’t really been able to see a weakness’ in Jon Jones

On July 6, in the main event of UFC 239, Brazilian knockout artist Thiago Santos will look to succeed where so many before him have failed and defeat legendary UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

Heading into this fight, he knows he’s going to have his hands full. His main priority is simply doing his best to make Jones suffer.

“He’s a very intelligent guy, so I need to be ready for everything,” Thiago Santos told MMA Junkie. “I need to be ready for everything and to make him suffer everywhere. If it’s on the ground, he has to suffer. If it’s on the feet, he has to suffer. If he takes me to the fence, he will suffer. That’s how I see it.

“If there was a formula, or a secret, someone would have figured it out already,” Santos added. “That’s something we’ll see then. We’re working on it, my coaches are studying him, but I think he’s a very intelligent guy. He adapts. If the fight is bad on the feet, he goes to the ground. If it’s bad on the ground, he goes to the feet. If it’s bad at the center of the cage, he takes it to the fence. If it gets bad on the fence, he takes it to the center.”

Thiago Santos went on to admit that, at this point, he and his team still haven’t identified any notable weaknesses in Jon Jones. That being said, they do feel like there are some areas where Jones has not yet been tested. Those could be areas they could exploit.

“We haven’t really been able to see a weakness in his game,” Santos said. “But we have never seen him with his back against the ground – better yet, with his back to the ground and a hand landing heavily. Then, we’ll see. That’s something we haven’t seen, how he reacts to a powerful ground-and-pound from the top. But anyway, more than ever I need to be ready for anything. He’s a very well-rounded guy, he adjusts to wherever the fight is, so my strategy is to make him feel bad wherever he is.”

What do you think of these comments from Thiago Santos? Could he be the man to topple Jon Jones?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 5/16/2019.

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Fight Announcements You May Have Missed

Over the past week, there have been a number of high profile fight announcements in both the UFC and Bellator. With four title fights announced and many other exciting fights slated, we take a brief look at each bout.

Jon Jones vs. Thiago Santos

The light heavyweight champion Jon Jones returns at UFC 239 for International Fight Week. Jones’ opponent on this occasion will be the hard-hitting Brazillian Thiago Santos.

The last time we saw Jones was at UFC 235, where he defeated Anthony Smith by unanimous decision. If all goes to plan, this will be the third time we will have seen Jones compete in just over seven months. It is refreshing to see him staying so active, and with a win here, he could extend his undefeated streak to 17.

Santos was last in action at UFC Fight Night 145, where he defeated Jan Blachowicz. We picked Santos as one of our biggest winners following this event, and it seems we were correct. This will be Santos’ first shot at a UFC title, and as he always comes to fight, it’s sure to be exciting.

Amanda Nunes vs. Holly Holm

Joining Jones and Santos at UFC 239 will be a women’s bantamweight championship bout contested between the ‘champ champ’ Amanda Nunes and former 135-pound champion Holly Holm.

Holm will be returning for the first time since she defeated Megan Anderson at UFC 225. Having had successful knee surgery late last year, Holm will be looking to kick on and capture the title once again. This will be Holm’s fifth title fight for the promotion, where she holds a record of 1-3. Does she have the stand-up game to deal with the hard-hitting Nunes? Only time will tell.

The women’s 135 and 145-pound champion Amanda Nunes is arguably the scariest woman to ever enter the octagon. Riding an eight-fight winning streak, including six finishes, Nunes most recently captured the featherweight belt. Is Nunes the women’s GOAT? There can be no denying it if she beats Holm in July. She holds wins over Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, two wins over Valentina Shevchenko and one over Cris Cyborg, a win over Holm will certainly only further cement her legacy.

Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes

Another fight announcement this week was a bout between UFC flyweight champion Henry Cejudo and former WSOF champion Marlon Moraes. This bout will be for the recently relinquished bantamweight belt and will take place at UFC 238. Cejudo aims to become the fourth ‘champ champ’ in the promotion’s history, but Moraes has other plans.

Cejudo most recently knocked out TJ Dillashaw in the first round, in Dillashaw’s bid to become the flyweight champion. There were talks for a rematch between the two, this time for the bantamweight championship, but since Dillashaw relinquished the title, Cejudo will now face Moraes. This will be Cejudo’s first fight at 135 since his UFC debut in 2014.

Marlon Moraes is riding a four-fight winning streak and is 17-1 in his last 18 fights. Moraes is the clear contender at 135 after he beat perennial contender Raphael Assunção at UFC Fight Night 144.

With a win, Cejudo could be regarded as the greatest combat sports athlete ever. Olympic gold medalist and UFC double champion? It could be hard to deny. First, though, he has to get through the world-class Marlon Moraes.

Gegard Mousasi vs. Rafael Lovato Jr

Another title fight announcement this week came from Bellator between Gegard Mousasi and Rafael Lovato Jr. Although this bout was previously set for Bellator 214, the middleweight champion had to pull out with an injury. This bout will now take place at Bellator London on June 22nd.

Mousasi is undefeated under the Bellator banner and is on an eight-fight winning streak. His most high profile victory for Bellator came against Rory MacDonald. Mousasi dominated MacDonald, finishing him in the second round. Mousasi will return to the SSE Arena where he won the middleweight belt to defend against Lovato Jr.

Lovato Jr is one of the hottest rising fighters in MMA. Although at 35 he is far from a young prospect, at 9-0 he is certainly skilled. A fourth degree BJJ black belt, Lovato Jr is a multiple time Pan American gi and no-gi champion. With six submission wins in his MMA career, Lovato Jr is certainly to be feared on the ground and will provide a good test for Mousasi.

Some of Bellator’s most recognizable faces also had fight announcements this week. Paul Daley, Aaron Chalmers and James Gallagher will all join Mousasi and Lovato Jr at the SSE arena in June.

Tyron Woodley vs. Robbie Lawler 2

The headliner of UFC on ESPN 4 will be a rematch between two former welterweight champions Tyron Woodley and Robbie Lawler. The two previously met at UFC 201 in July 2016, where Woodley knocked out Lawler in the first round to capture the belt.

Since this bout, Woodley has had five championship fights, winning three, drawing one and most recently losing to Kamaru Usman. Lawler has gone 1-2, most recently losing to Ben Askren, albeit controversially.

Woodley did state on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show that the bout is yet to be confirmed officially, however.

Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos

A heavyweight fight announcement was also made this week between Francis Ngannou and Junior Dos Santos (JDS). This exciting match-up is slated for UFC 239 at international fight week.

This fight was originally scheduled for UFC 215, but JDS was pulled from the bout by USADA. Since then, JDS is 3-0 with two finishes and Ngannou is 2-2. Despite this, Ngannou has faced two former champions and a former title challenger.

This is a fight that has stand-up fanatics extremely excited. Can Ngannou land one of those big bombs and end it early? Or will JDS’s boxing be enough to keep Ngannou off and defeat The Predator?

Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren

Yet another fight announcement this week came in the welterweight division. Again at UFC 239, Jorge Masvidal is slated to face Ben Askren. The number four ranked welterweight Masvidal is coming off a brutal knockout upset of Darren Till. A fight between Masivdal and Leon Edwards is what the fans wanted following their backstage brawl at UFC London, however, Askren gets the shot at Masvidal.

Askren himself was slated to rematch Robbie Lawler following the controversial finish to their bout at UFC 235. Despite this, Masvidal will face Askren in what may be seen as a number one contender fight.

These two men will join a stacked UFC 239 card, with two title fights, a big hitting heavyweight bout and the return of Luke Rockhold.

Other Fight Announcements

  • A lightweight bout between Gilbert Burns and promotional returner Eric Wisley was also announced for UFC on ESPN 3.
  • A featherweight bout between Shane Burgos and Cub Swanson was announced for UFC Fight Night 150. Swanson will be looking to snap a three-fight losing streak, whereas Burgos will be looking to kick on following his victory at UFC 230.
  • Hard hitting Mike Perry steps in to face Alex Oliveria at UFC on ESPN 3. Perry replaces the injured Li Jingliang.

 

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