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Santiago Ponzinibbio isn’t buying Rafael dos Anjos’ ‘excuse’ not to fight him at UFC Argentina

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Santiago Ponzinibbio thought there would be a perfect main event in place for UFC Argentina. This is a card that means everything to the most prominent fighter in the UFC from that country.

The show will take place in Buenos Aires, not far from his hometown of La Plata and Ponzinibbio will be the headliner. He wanted everything to be as good as it could be. He wanted Rafael dos Anjos, the former UFC lightweight champion, to be his opponent Nov. 17.

“Perfect,” Ponzinibbio said he thought. “RDA wants to fight in November, perfect. We have an epic, historic event in South America. He’s very popular. He’s a Brazilian guy, I’m an Argentinean guy. This is amazing. I fight with RDA.”

Dos Anjos, though, wasn’t interested in traveling all the way to Argentina for that bout. He said he’d fight Ponzinibbio, but somewhere closer to his California home, because his wife is pregnant.

Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting that he’s not really buying dos Anjos’ reason, because he’ll be away from home the same amount of time. Argentina is just a longer flight.

“if you say the fight is in Mexico, OK I understand,” Ponzinibbio said. “You have a big altitude. You need to go two, maybe three weeks before the fight. But in Argentina, you don’t have altitude, you don’t have a different time zone than your country. In Argentina, you fight Saturday and you’re back Sunday. It’s the same shit if he fought in Las Vegas or in LA.”

Ponzinibbio, 31, will still headline in his home country, against Neil Magny. But “Gente Boa” had his heart set on what he thought would be a bigger drawing bout for Buenos Aires. Plus, dos Anjos is ranked No. 3 in the UFC’s official welterweight rankings, while Magny is No. 8. Ponzinibbio sits at No. 10.

When asked if he felt a win over Magny would get him closer to a title shot, Ponzinibbio laughed. The former Ultimate Fighter Brazil castmate said he believes he should have earned a higher ranking and more prestigious fights after he knocked out Gunnar Nelson in the first round last year, but that didn’t happen. Instead, he fought and beat Mike Perry at UFC on FOX 26 last December.

“The UFC don’t have rules,” Ponzinibbio said. “I think i deserve a top-five guy. I beat No. 8 in the world (Nelson) in 82 seconds.”

All told, Ponzinibbio (26-3) has put together an excellent résumé. He has won six straight and sports a sterling 8-2 record in the UFC going back to 2013. Ponzibbio believes he would have won TUF Brazil, as well, if not for a broken hand that knocked him out of the final.

Magny (21-6) has won two in a row and is one of the most consistent performers at 170 pounds in the UFC. Ponzinibbio knows it won’t be easy, but he’s very confident.

“He’s tough, but I kill him,” Ponzinibbio said. “I finish him. I’m really excited for the fight.”

Ponzinibbio, of course, wants to put on a show for his country. He knows that if he were not a top welterweight in the UFC that the promotion might not have even come to Argentina in 2018. There is a sense of responsibility there, which is why Ponzinibbio was excited to fight someone with the name of dos Anjos. He still doesn’t think the Brazilian’s reasoning is sound.

“This is not a real excuse, this is a stupid excuse,” Ponzinibbio said. “It’s stupid. I don’t know, man. I don’t know what the UFC said to RDA about taking the fight. But the excuse of RDA is ridiculous.”