Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza returns to the Octagon against Yushin Okami, and he wants to make a statement.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion meets Okami at the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 28 in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on Sept. 4, and he realizes that that is a big opportunity for him to move up inside the 185-pound division.
"I love this fight because Okami is well-ranked, and a tough opponent, he’s really complete," Ronaldo told MMAFighting.com on Wednesday. "This is a great challenge in my career, and that makes me happy because the UFC is giving me those kinds of fights. They won’t regret giving me this opportunity. The more responsibility they give me, the more I like it."
Souza made his Octagon debut last May, taking out UFC veteran Chris Camozzi with a first-round arm-triangle choke. Okami has never been submitted in MMA, but the multi-time jiu-jitsu world champion won’t enter the Octagon with that obsession.
"My focus is not getting the submission or the knockout, it is getting the win," he explains. "I’m going there to win and I will win. I have been training with some new talents from X-Gym, they are helping me a lot. I have trained my whole life with guys that are that hungry, so you can bet I’ll be fine there. I’m ready for this challenge."
Josuel Distak, head coach of X-Gym in Rio de Janeiro, told MMAFighting.com he believes the former Strikeforce star will show his evolution in the striking area and finish the Japanese judoka.
"Jacare is ready," Distak praises. "It’s going to be an important fight because they are both top-five fighters, and we’re focused. It’s a bad match-up for Okami in every aspect of the fight. I don’t see how he could win. The thing is, we will get to Okami's weakness and explore that. I believe his weakness is the stand-up game, so we will go for the knockout."
Currently ranked No. 5 in the UFC middleweight division, Souza realizes he still has work to do before earning his shot at the title. He believes Chris Weidman is "a tough fight," but that Anderson Silva will defeat him at UFC 168 and reclaim his middleweight title. With Vitor Belfort asking for a second opportunity for the belt, Jacare offers himself to the challenge, even though he realizes "The Phenom" deserves the shot already.
"Of course I’d like [to fight Vitor]," he said. "But that’s up to the UFC. I believe Vitor showed, after his last two fights, that he should fight for the title. He destroyed everybody and is the next contender. But it’s up to the UFC, I’d accept that fight."