Lee faces Tony Ferguson for the interim belt at UFC 216 on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas, and Santos, who is unbeaten inside the Octagon, including a first-round knockout over “The Motown Phenom” in Dec. 2015, is upset that he can’t even get a fight booked.
Santos hasn’t fought since Oct. 2016, when he defeated Adriano Martins by split decision at UFC 204. He was scheduled to meet Olivier Aubin-Mercier at the UFC 212 card in Rio de Janeiro last June, but his opponent pulled out with an injury. The promotion tried to find a replacement, but ended up removing him from the card.
The UFC promised the Brazilian a fight in July, he says, but it never happened. Almost three months later, Santos is still waiting for a call.
"The UFC is f***ing me up,” Santos said with a laugh. "I want to fight this year, for the love of God, or I’ll be broke. I have lots of bills to pay, I have to feed my kids. I have to fight, especially after doing a three-month camp and not getting paid anything, so I want to fight."
The 37-year-old Nova Uniao talent has a 4-0-1 UFC record in the lightweight division since winning The Ultimate Fighter Brazil 2 as a welterweight. He expects to be back in action in November or December, and is not considering taking fights on short notice right now.
"Why would I do that? It’s not time to do that,” Santos said. "I’m undefeated in the UFC, I’m going after the top-10. The guy I knocked out is fighting for the interim title, so I’m in a good place to come back. The UFC has to give me a good opportunity and a good fight, that’s all I ask.”
Lee won five in a row with four stoppages after losing to the Brazilian in 2015, but Santos questions the UFC’s decisions and rankings.
“I’ll be honest, he has his merits, but it’s a joke that he’s fighting for the interim belt,” Santos said. "I have five wins in the UFC, I’m undefeated, and they didn’t even put me against a top-10 opponent. People say ‘oh, he fought more than you.’ Okay, but after we fought he fought three times and entered the top-10.
"‘Massaranduba’ (Francisco Trinaldo) won seven in a row and he was No. 12. It’s a joke. When they want to put someone up there (in the rankings), they do it and f*** it. His merits, he won the fights, congratulations, but I deserved to be in the top-10 and fighting a top-10 guy."
In fact, Santos was upset that Lee got to fight Michael Chiesa in June when he was publicly calling out his fellow TUF winner long before.
“I called Chiesa out, and the UFC said he already had a fight booked so that didn’t happen,” Santos said. "Three weeks after Kevin Lee fought Massaranduba they booked that fight. What the f***? I can’t understand that. They are protecting the fighters, that’s the truth. I’m waiting, asking for a top-10 for years, and they don’t make it happen."
Asked why the UFC doesn’t treat him as they treat Lee, Santos has no answer for it.
"You have to ask them,” he said. "People usually say that Brazilians don’t speak English, but I speak English. There’s no excuse, there’s nothing to say. They say ‘oh, Leo, you don’t fight that often.’ Bullsh*t! Al Iaquinta didn’t fight for two years and was top 10 for a long time. Gilbert Melendez too. That’s bullsh*t."