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‘Jacare’ Souza feels he’s earned UFC title shot already, but is open to fighting Chris Weidman next

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Souza vs Brunson
Ronaldo Souza finished Derek Brunson in less than four minutes at UFC Charlotte.
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Ronaldo Souza considered retiring from mixed martial arts while he dealt with injuries and surgeries over the past year, but only needed one round to prove he’s still got it.

“Jacare” headlined UFC Charlotte against Derek Brunson last Saturday, a rematch of an old win in Strikeforce, and scored another first-round knockout over Brunson.

”When I was inside the Octagon, healthy, injury-free, I knew that no matter who won, I’d put on a good performance. I knew I was back,” Souza told MMA Fighting. “After the surgeries I had, being there the way I was was a miracle for me. I was happy. I know that if I’m healthy and happy, I will always do good things inside the Octagon.”

Back in Orlando, where he now lives with his wife Larissa and his three kids, “Jacare” will relax and celebrate his anniversary, but took some time to speak with MMA Fighting about his win.

”I have a strong front kick,” he said. “It’s so strong I don’t use it in training because it really hurts people. And I was hurting him. I think I landed eight front kicks, one shin to the body. When I decided to kick his head, I knew it would land.”

Souza dropped Brunson with a right head kick, and patiently waited for an opening to landed a couple more left hands before referee Dan Miragliotta stepped in.

”I’ve rushed forward a few times before and woke up my opponent up with punches,” he explains. “I’m more calm now. I take a look and connect the punches in the right spot to make sure my opponent goes out.”

That was “Jacare’s” first MMA fight without training at X-Gym in Rio de Janeiro, and he felt great at Fusion X-cel Performance.

”This is where I’ll become champion,” a “more mature” Souza said of the team. “I was always training hard. If I don’t feel well now, if I didn’t sleep well, I won’t train so hard. I think I’ve changed a lot about knowing what my body needs. Sometimes my body needs rest, and I wouldn’t rest before. That wasn’t helping me before.”

The 38-year-old middleweight is enjoying some time off before he comes back and signs his next bout agreement, and he believes that beating Brunson the way he did should be enough to guarantee his long-awaited shot at the UFC title.

”They are always complicating things for me,” Souza said. “(Luke) Rockhold just beat David Branch, who came from another promotion, and is fighting for the belt. The criteria is different with me, I always have to fight one more time. I honestly think that I have to fight one more, but why only me? Rockhold just beat Branch, man, and is fighting for an interim belt? Do you get what I’m saying?”

Rockhold was slated to face Robert Whittaker for the 185-pound title at UFC 221 on Feb. 10, but Yoel Romero stepped in to replace the injured champion. “Jacare”, who fought them all in the UFC and Strikeforce cage, gives an advantage for Rockhold over Romero, and says Rockhold’s height and southpaw game could complicate things for the undisputed champion.

With Rockhold and Romero fighting for an interim belt, and Whittaker likely facing the winner next, Souza, who says he would have “no problem going straight for the title”, is open to a fight with former champion Chris Weidman next.

”It’s a fight that makes sense,” Souza said. “I never turned down a fight, especially a good fight like this. It would be a huge pleasure to fight him. This is the fight that makes sense now. I don’t know if he’s healthy because he just has hand surgery. What I know is that I’m super healthy. I’ll give my body a few days to rest, celebrate my anniversary a lot more, and then I’ll be back to training.”

“Jacare” says he’s in a good shape and would come back “in three or four months,” and a possible pay-per-view event in Rio de Janeiro in May “would be more than special.”

”Fighting in Brazil would be wonderful,” he said. “I wanted to fight in Belem, but Derek insisted he wanted to fight in North Carolina, in his hometown. I’d love to fight (in Rio de Janeiro), that would be great for me.”

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