BELEM, Brazil — Thiago Santos scored his fourth straight knockout finish in the Octagon on Saturday night, stopping Anthony Smith in the second round at UFC Belem to tie Anderson Silva’s record for most knockouts in UFC middleweight history.
“Anyone who fights me has to be prepared to feel pain, and I knew he had never fought someone like me before,” Santos said after the win in Brazil, explaining that going for kicks and punches to Smith’s “fragile body” was his strategy. “I know that I would hurt him eventually.”
The Tata Fight Team middleweight was confident in the victory, but revealed that he was close to pulling out of the card due to a serious injury sustained in December.
“Right after the fight was announced, I broke my rib in two spots in sparring,” he said. “My coaches tried to convince me to pull out, but I hung tight and kept training. I don’t think I’ve done more than two or three hard rounds sparring for this fight.”
Completely healed now, and fresh off another impressive finish, Santos wants a big name next to prove the UFC rankings wrong. The 34-year-old entered Saturday’s bout on the edge of the contenders’ list at No. 15.
“I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again: I’m in the ranking now, but I don’t care about it,” Santos said. “To me, this ranking is a lie. Some fighters don’t deserve to be there. My goal is not to be in the ranking, but to be the champion.
“I think that some guys are ranked because of what they’ve won in the past. Some fighters have done a lot in the past, have a huge history and a big name, but rankings are supposed to be based on what’s happening now instead of who has a bigger history. That’s why I call this ranking a lie.”
“I’m asking for an opportunity,” Santos said, “but I don’t turn down fights and never will.”
“I don’t have the goal of fighting Brazilians,” he said of Ronaldo Souza, “But I have nothing that stops me from fighting Brazilians. My goal is the belt, and if I have to fight a Brazilian to get there, nothing will stop me.”
Regarding the announcement that UFC 224 has been scheduled for May 12 in Rio de Janeiro, Santos said it would be a quick turnaround for him, but he didn’t rule out fighting on that card.