Two months after losing to Robert Whittaker at UFC on FOX 24, Ronaldo Souza has finally opened up.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion was a step away from a UFC title bout back in April, but a second-round TKO defeat ruined his plans.
"I honestly thought I would win the fight, that I would impose my game and win,” Souza told MMA Fighting. "I was confident, but this son of a gun came with a better strategy and defeated me. He beat me up good. That’s the only fight I was beaten up this much, but it happens. You step inside the Octagon and there’s a risk of not being on a good day, facing someone with a better strategy that can defeat you. There’s nothing else to say. I have to recover, come back and win."
Shortly after suffering his second loss inside the Octagon, “Jacare" underwent surgery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to fix an pectoral rupture. The middleweight talent, who had his moments in the fight, taking Whittaker’s back in the opening round, revealed that he did not suffer the injury during his 185-pound bout.
"I got injured before the Tim Boestch fight,” said Souza, who defeated Boetsch by first-round submission in February. "I healed before that fight (with Boetsch), but I think that it was worse during this last camp. I tore the muscle more, so I lost a lot of strength."
Souza didn’t consider pulling out of the UFC on FOX 24 card, and explains that the pre-existing injury was not one of the reasons why he decided to re-sign with the UFC a day before fighting the last fight of his contract with the company.
"I was in the United States and had already asked for money way before, but we haven’t got a deal done,” Souza said. "A day before the fight, my manager came in and said ‘look, they accepted your number, so sign here.’ They accepted it, and I was happy in the UFC, making what I think I deserve, so I signed it.”
According to the Brazilian, his team didn’t talk with Bellator or any other promotion before agreeing to a new deal with the UFC. The last-minute signing didn’t change his mentality ahead of a key fight with Whittaker.
"I didn’t lose focus,” he said. "I was 1000 percent focused in the fight. I honestly wasn’t thinking about contracts. All of a sudden my manager shows up with a paper to sign, telling me that they accepted what I requested, so I said ‘give me a pen.' I went to sleep focused on the fight."
When the news broke that Souza had re-signed with the UFC, his manager Gilberto Faria revealed to MMA Fighting that he had signed an eight-fight deal with the promotion, but “Jacare" wouldn’t confim the number of bouts in his contract.
“That's classified information,” he said. Asked about the number revealed by his manager, Souza simply responded “he said that, not me."
Eager to return to action, Souza expects to compete by the end of the year. A lot of things can change in the division until he steps back in the cage, and that’s why he won’t focus on an opponent just yet.
"I believe I’ll be back inside the Octagon by the end of the year, and just one more win gets me to the belt again," Souza said. "I’m in the top of the division, so that’s what I look at. I’ve fought people below me in the division, and this time I want someone (ranked) higher than me. I don’t know who will be the No. 1 by the time I come back.”
Asked if Luke Rockhold is a name he would like to finally rematch, Souza took shots at the former UFC and Strikeforce titleholder.
“People are too sensitive lately,” Souza said. "If you don’t get people an opportunity… Luke only got where he got because I gave him an opportunity to fight me back then, and also gave him an opportunity to an one of his friends to judge the fight. That’s why he became Strikeforce champion.
"Robert Whittaker is only fighting for the interim belt now (against Yoel Romero) because I gave him an opportunity to fight. People have to step up and fight. You become the champion by fighting. The world turns, but how is it going to turn if people keep saying ‘oh, I won’t fight this one, I won’t fight that one’?
"The UFC pays you when you fight. You won’t get paid if you stay at home. We have to make money for the promotion so we get paid as well."