Santos, the TUF Brazil 2 welterweight winner, is 5-0-1 in official bouts under the promotion’s banner, and fought for the last time in October 2016, defeating Adriano Martins via split decision. He was scheduled to face Olivier Aubin-Mercier in June 2017, but was left without an opponent just days before UFC 212 when Mercier suffered an injury.
And that’s pretty much it.
Santos says he was promised by a UFC matchmaker to get rebooked quickly after UFC 212 last June, so he continued training. He received no calls in July, August and September, when he suffered an injury that forced him out of the gym for three months.
The Nova Uniao fighter recovered from his injury and started to train again late in December, when he says he informed the UFC he was good to go and started to campaign for a fight again. Three months later, he’s still waiting for a date to compete.
“I don’t understand what’s happening,” Santos told MMA Fighting on Monday. “I haven’t cursed at anyone’s mother, I haven’t criticized the UFC. If I don’t fight, I don’t get paid. It’s hard to stay focused without a fight. Instead of giving me good fights when I was on a roll and let me climb the ranking, they did nothing. Quite the opposite, they kept me sidelined without a fight.”
Santos wasn’t paid when Mercier pulled out ahead of UFC 212, so he hasn’t received any money from the UFC since his win over Martins in Oct. 2016. To pay his bills and provide to his family, Santos has done jiu-jitsu seminars.
“I have a good name in jiu-jitsu because of what I did before joining the UFC, so I do seminars, and that’s how I pay for my training and pay my bills,” Santos said. “The UFC is complicated today. They should have booked my fight already instead of leaving me sidelined for so long, or ring rust can be an issue next time I fight. It’s hard to understand what’s happening.”
Santos’ goal was to fight at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro on May 24. The card already has 10 bouts officially announced, and he wonders if he will have a chance to fight in his home country. Santos’ teammate Jose Aldo was already looking to compete at the pay-per-view event as well, but recently told Combate TV that he was now offered to fight Jeremy Stephens on June 23 in Singapore.
Asked what his plans are now, Santos jokingly said he would “ask to leave” the UFC if he doesn’t get a fight booked at either fight card, or somewhere else by June.
“UFC Rio is right around the corner and they don’t give me any news,” Santos said. “If Aldo fights in Singapore, I hope they put me there. The truth is I’m waiting, and I’ve been waiting for a year and a half.
“I’ve asked for Michael Chiesa and he doesn’t want to fight. I’ve asked for Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz. I’ve asked for anyone in the top 10 because that’s what I deserve, but they don’t respond. They always say that whoever I ask already has a fight booked.”
The 38-year-old fighter doesn’t know how many fights he has left in his UFC deal, and wonders what’s next for him in the company.
“The big problem is that we join the UFC and a lot of people think that if you fight and you keep winning, you will get into a good position to one day fight for the belt,” Santos said, “but today we see that it’s more interesting to talk trash instead of fighting. It’s difficult. I’m not a trash talker. I’m not against it, it’s a show and you have to be part of it, but what I want is fight.
“The clock is ticking. 38 years old. I’ve always taken care of myself, I was an athlete my entire career and I’ve always fought guys that were younger than me and that was not an issue, but this time without a fight is the problem.”
Kevin Lee, the man who lost to Santos in less than four minutes back in 2015, is scheduled to headline UFC Atlantic City on April 21, and Santos offers to run it back.
“Anyone in the top 10, bring it,” Santos said. “I just want to fight. I’ve been asking for fights for a million years. I complain that I’m not in the top 10 and they don’t put me in there. It’s hard to understand how those rankings work. They say you have to have a big win over someone with a name, but how am I going to do that if they don’t give me one? It’s complicated.
“I want to fight and see what happens. If down the line I think I have to curse at someone’s mother, I will [laughs].”