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Thiago Santos almost pulled out of UFC Sao Paulo main event with leg injury

MMA: UFC Fight Night-Sao Paulo-Santos vs Anders
Thiago Santos finished Eryk Anders in the third round.
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Jimi Manuwa was forced out of UFC Sao Paulo main event with a leg injury, and Eryk Anders stepped in against Thiago Santos on only six days’ notice Saturday night in Brazil. However, “Marreta” was close to pulling out of the card as well.

Santos, who replaced injured Glover Teixeira in a five-round light heavyweight clash on a month’s notice, suffered a thigh injury eight days before the fight, his coach Tata Duarte told MMA Fighting after the event.

“Marreta” sparred for the last time 11 days before the fight to avoid serious injuries, but ended up suffering a muscle strain after going for a suplex in the gym, the same injury he suffered during his UFC Brasilia loss to Eric Spicely in 2016.

“He went down in pain,” Duarte said. “We stopped training and sent him to our physical therapist Bernardo Moura to check him out and start the treatment. Bernardo knew the injury, it was the same one he had in Brasilia against Spicely, but it was worse against Spicely.

“Bernardo said that the ideal would be two weeks of recovery, but we only had one. We did physical therapy for three days and went to Sao Paulo on Sunday. The UFC sent their physical therapist, Bob, on Monday and we kept the treatment.”

Santos told MMA Fighting he never considered pulling out of the fight, but says his coaches thought about it.

“I did physical therapy with Bob all week,” Santos told MMA Fighting. “I felt a horrible pain, the treatment was painful. Thank God I didn’t need to cut much weight so I didn’t have to worry about training that hard, but we did physical therapy all week up until Saturday morning.”

The UFC was forced to change Santos’ opponent while he worked on staying on the card, but the Brazilian couldn’t do anything specific to prepare for a new opponent. In the end, Santos won via third-round TKO.

“He didn’t train much during fight week,” Duarte said. “We were afraid of that, being a five-round fight and not being able to train. We only did 20-minute training sessions, only using his hands and the right leg because the left leg was injured.

”When the opponent changed, we couldn’t work his takedown defense, nothing, and we were worried because we knew Anders would try to take him down. There were moments in the fight that ‘Marreta’ gave him the takedown to avoid forcing the injury, but thank God everything went right.”

Back to Rio de Janeiro, the TFT talent will continue working with his physical therapist to be 100 percent again. At the post-fight press conference, “Marreta” said he’s hoping for a December return against Manuwa.