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Nova Uniao’s Leonardo Santos talks ‘exhausting’ weight cut for UFC Fight Night 51: ‘I had cramps all night’

Wagner Carmo, Inovafoto

BRASILIA, Brazil -- Leonardo Santos returned to the win column on Saturday night in Brasilia, Brazil, but his victory over fellow The Ultimate Fighter winner Efrain Escudero was tougher than he expected.

The Nova Uniao lightweight didn’t look well during Friday’s official weigh-ins at the Nilson Nelson gymnasium, and after his unanimous decision victory he told MMA Fighting that he barely slept the night before he stepped on the scale.

"I had cramps all night and couldn’t sleep, that was a big issue, but I was physically well and able to fight three rounds," Santos said. "But the cramps were an issue."

Santos, who was coming off a draw against Norman Parke in Natal, Brazil, changed a few things heading into Saturday’s fight.

"I told [Andre Pederneiras] that I wanted to do a test, gain more weight on fight night -- it worked, but it was exhausting," he said. "It took me longer to cut the weight. In Natal, I couldn’t gain much weight, and now I was stronger than my last fight."

Nova Uniao recently became a target of criticism when Renan Barao had to pull out of his UFC 177 main event with T.J. Dillashaw at the eleventh hour of their bantamweight title fight, and also for Ronny Markes coming in heavy for middleweight and light heavyweight bouts in the UFC and WSOF.

"Ronny Markes was the first Nova Uniao fighter to ever miss weight in the UFC, and Barao didn’t even make to the scale, unfortunately, because of an accident," Santos said. "People say a lot of things, but Barao was closer to the title, he was about to bring this title back to Brazil, and people talk a lot of crap.

"[Andre] is one of the best coaches in the world, only works with high-level professionals. Do you think he would mess up? People talk too much, but doesn’t want to hear that Nova Uniao is one of the biggest teams in the world, with great professionals, and we’re always ready. It happened once, and people starting talking crap."

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