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‘Jacare’ Souza believes he’ll be UFC middleweight champion in two fights

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Ronaldo Souza faces Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event of UFC 224 in Brazil.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ronaldo Souza has big plans for 2018.

The former Dream and Strikeforce middleweight champion came close to earning a shot at the UFC belt in the past, but is confident that he’s a win away from finally fighting for the 185-pound belt in the Octagon.

“Jacare” is slated to meet Kelvin Gastelum in the co-main event of UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on May 12, and sees no one else but him to fight the winner of UFC 225’s Robert Whittaker vs. Yoel Romero later this year.

“If you analyze it, there’s no better option,” Souza told MMA Fighting. “Chris Weidman can’t fight now, he’s hurt. Kelvin Gastelum is here to fight, I’m here to fight, you know? Here’s what’s going to happen: in two fights I’ll become the UFC middleweight champion.

“No disrespect, it’s just me being confident. In two fights, I’ll become the UFC middleweight champion. I’m working for that, and I believe in it, and it will happen. Kelvin is a tough fight, difficult, complicated, but I’m here to defeat anyone and I will win two fights to become UFC champion.”

Souza avoided talking about title shots prior to his most recent fight, a first-round knockout over Derek Brunson in January, since he was coming off a loss to Whittaker and “that wasn’t the moment to talk because I was coming back.”

Whittaker, who now holds the 185-pound championship, will put it on the line against Romero on June 9. Whittaker and Romero are the only two men to ever defeat Souza inside the Octagon, and the Brazilian has no preference about which loss he would like to avenge first.

“I just hope it’s a good fight and the better man wins,” Souza said. “I want to be there, front row, watching who will win. I will fight the winner of this fight. I’m not rooting for any of them. Whoever has a better gameplan will win that night.”