Souza was in talks with the UFC about fighting Jared Cannonier when the promotion changed plans and booked Cannonier against Anderson Silva at UFC 237. Meanwhile, the company’s original plan for April 27 at UFC Fort Lauderdale was a five-round main event between Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa, which eventually fell through after Costa withdrew.
When that happened, the UFC reached out to “Jacare” offering a rematch against Romero in the main event on ESPN, which Souza quickly agreed to. Shortly after that, though, Romero was forced out of the card with pneumonia. In the end, Souza was matched up against Swede middleweight Jack Hermansson — and to even further complicate matters, the card was moved from ESPN to ESPN+.
”It was really stressing for me,” Souza told MMA Fighting of his roller-coaster road to UFC Fort Lauderdale. “I didn’t like what happened, at all, but accepted the fight. When they promised me a title shot, that’s what made me accept it. That’s it.”
Souza’s team was aiming for additional financial compensation to accept the Hermansson fight in Florida, but that didn’t happen. “Jacare” ultimately ended up agreeing to the booking after being promised a shot at the UFC middleweight belt against the winner of a yet-to-be-booked unification bout between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya, even though he knows promises are no guarantee in this business.
”I don’t know, man. It happened,” Souza said when asked why he believes the UFC after being burned in the past. “They really wanted this fight, they insisted a lot. It was a negotiation and we accepted it. I talked to everyone. I talked to Mick Maynard, who talked to Dana White and Hunter (Campbell), everyone there. Everyone in the UFC promised me the belt if I won, and that’s something no one ever did to me before. They really wanted this fight.
”I was ready to fight Romero, was really happy with that rematch,” he continued. “I was excited to possibly go five rounds with him, but he had that [illness]. … It’s not an easy [illness], many people die of it, so he has to take care of himself. I wish him a good recovery. And then ‘Borrachinha’ (Costa) came. I liked it, was happy about it. ‘Borrachinha’ is a young guy, really strong. I didn’t like it at first, but then I agreed to it. They told me he had agreed to it, but in the end he changed his mind. He said he was too heavy and only had four weeks to prepare and changed his mind. Well, okay then.
”And then Hermansson … I took a little time before I agreed to it, more than a week — to me, it felt like a month. But we agreed to it.”
”I’m putting my career at risk,” Souza said. “I’ve been fighting in the UFC for six years and I’m fighting the No. 10 in the division, but I’ll go there and beat him up. There’s no other option.”
Speaking with MMA Fighting in the lead-up to UFC Fort Lauderdale, Hermansson revealed he may go to the ground with jiu-jitsu wizard Souza to prove a point and show he’s as great as the Brazilian on the mat.
“Jacare” doesn’t think he’s bluffing.
”I believe him. I do believe him. There’s a lot of crazy people out there,” Souza said. “But I fear his jiu-jitsu. I respect his jiu-jitsu. He has great submissions, he’s long and can surprise anyone. However, brother, going to the ground with me is complicated. When I start squeezing … good luck. I’m there to finish the fight, and I don’t think he can handle it.”