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.

Daily Debate results: Miocic, Holm or Edgar? Who’s got the best shot to reclaim UFC gold?

Three former UFC champions have new chances to win gold in the not-too-distant future.

Stipe Miocic will try to regain the heavyweight title from Daniel Cormier at UFC 241; former lightweight champ Frankie Edgar will try to take featherweight gold from Max Holloway at UFC 240; and Holly Holm will try to become a two-time bantamweight champ when she meets Amanda Nunes at UFC 239.

For our Daily Debate, we wanted to know: Which of those three has the best chance of winning? It’s a runaway, by the way.

The results, via Twitter:

To hear the MMA Junkie Radio crew weigh in on the topic, watch the video above.

For the latest on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMA Junkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio. You can also check out www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmfightnation.

Thiago Santos’ plan for beating Jon Jones at UFC 239: ‘Make him suffer everywhere’

Thiago “Marreta” Santos knows he’s got a tall order in front of him in his next fight.

It’s no ordinary opponent Santos will face on July 6 in Las Vegas. The Brazilian slugger will meet UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, a man who has never legitimately lost an MMA fight, in the main event of the highly anticipated UFC 239.

Santos (21-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) knows that when Jones (24-1 MMA, 18-1 UFC)) steps into the cage, he’s outstanding at, well, everything.

And the way the converted middleweight sees it, the best approach is to simply bite down on his mouthpiece, throw some of the sledgehammers represented by the tattoo on his chest, and then do his best to match Jones in every aspect of the game. 

“He’s a very intelligent guy, so I need to be ready for everything,” Santos told MMA Junkie in his native Portuguese. “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.”

Why such a basic approach? Well, if there was already a blueprint in place to defeat the champ, the American Top Team standout would use it, but there isn’t.

“If there was a formula, or a secret, someone would have figured it out already,” Santos said. “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.”

Thus, Santos, who is 3-0 with three knockouts since leaving 185 pounds for 205, is going to stick with what works. His relentless, pressuring approach has gotten him this far, as he’s silenced all the doubters who didn’t think he could hang after making the jump from light heavyweight. So why fix something which isn’t broken?

“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.”

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

UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos Fight Card

UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos
Date: July 6, 2018
Venue: T-Mobile Arena
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

 

UFC 239 News & Videos

 

UFC 239 Full Live Results: Jones vs. Santos

UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos Betting Odds

 

UFC 239: Jones vs. Santos Fight Card

Fight Card

  • Jon Jones (c) vs. Thiago Santos
  • Amanda Nunes (c) vs. Holly Holm
  • Francis Ngannou vs. Junior dos Santos
  • Jan Błachowicz vs. Luke Rockhold
  • Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera
  • Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Jack Marshman
  • Diego Sanchez vs. Michael Chiesa
  • Jorge Masvidal vs. Ben Askren

 

Daniel Cormier: Jon Jones trilogy fight is ‘my decision this time’


RIO DE JANEIRO – Daniel Cormier is not backing off the notion that a third fight with fellow UFC champion Jon Jones would have to take place at light heavyweigt.

Cormier (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) hasn’t fought at 205 pounds since January 2018 but said he would be willing to go through “a horrible weight cut” if it meant another encounter with longtime rival Jones (24-1 MMA, 18-1 UFC), who he’s failed to beat in two previous attempts.

“DC,” who is scheduled to put his heavyweight title on the line against Stipe Miocic (18-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC) at UFC 241 in August, said he doesn’t feel he has to fight Jones again to complete his career, which is on short time. But if he does, there’s only one weight for it to take place.

“If I fight Jon Jones again, it’ll be at 205,” Cormier told reporters, including MMA Junkie, on Friday. “That’s where he won the fights, and that’s where I would want to beat him at. I’ve done so much more now that my career is not tied to Jon Jones anymore. It was initially, right? Because he beat me, I won the light heavyweight title, and I was always fighting at light heavyweight, then I became the heavyweight champ. Then I defended the light heavyweight title three times.

“This is my ninth UFC title fight. Why am I worried about tying my career to somebody else? I fought for the gold belt, it’s going to be 10 times in my career. So, I need no one. But if I want to fight Jones, I’ll fight Jones. It’ll be my decision this time.”

Cormier seemingly can’t be persuaded away from fighting Jones at light heavyweight. UFC president Dana White has said he would like to see “Bones” move up to heavyweight to make it happen, and Jones has said he would only do that for a gigantic payday.

Even if the UFC and Jones could come to terms, though, Cormier is not keen on his rival coming up a weight class. He wants to replicate the circumstances of the prior contests and be triumphant.

“He beat me at 205,” Cormier said. “He’s never fought at heavyweight. It would be something completely new for him. I would want to fight on the terms that we fought prior.”

Before a Cormier vs. Jones trilogy fight becomes a reality, both men have business to handle. Cormier will attempt to defend against Miocic in August, while Jones is scheduled to put his title up for grabs against Thiago “Marreta” Santos (21-6 MMA, 13-5 UFC) at UFC 239 in July. What happens after that remains to be seen, but Cormier knows if pen comes to paper and the fight is official, he will be determined to win.

“When I’m preparing to fight him, I train better, my focus is better, and I believed when he beat me on those two nights that was the best version of who I am,” Cormier said. “I know how much work I’ve put into being ready for those fights. I think it makes me better. Any time you have a person like that to chase, it makes you better.”

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