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Thiago Santos doesn’t rule out a return to middleweight to ‘beat up’ Israel Adesanya

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Thiago Santos has looked great since moving up to light heavyweight in 2018.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Thiago Santos has his hands full right now, as he prepares to fight light heavyweight king Jon Jones in the main event of UFC 239 in Las Vegas, NV, on July 6.

Yet, he won’t shy away from making big plans for after the fight.

A former middleweight who’s found success moving up to 205 pounds, finishing Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Błachowicz in a five-month span, “Marreta” doesn’t exclude a potential return to his original weight class after challenging Jones.

In fact, he plans on becoming a two-division UFC champion just to take the 185-pound title away from Israel Adesanya.

”I’d love to beat up Adesanya,” Santos told reporters during UFC 237 in Brazil. “I don’t think he’s a nice guy. I would love to fight him. I don’t know, the times I’ve met him… I don’t know, we didn’t get along. The energy, I don’t know. I can’t explain. Same thing with (Michael) Bisping. I’m like that, I feel the person’s energy. I have nothing to say about him. If he’s a bad person or not, I don’t know. But we didn’t get along.”

Adesanya captured the interim title with a decision victory over Kelvin Gastelum in April, and is expected to face undisputed champion Robert Whittaker later this year. “The Last Stylebender” is unbeaten as a professional MMA fighter with 17 wins, with the likes of Anderson Silva, Derek Brunson and Brad Tavares in his list of victims.

Santos doesn’t think the kickboxing specialist would be able to stand in front of him, though.

”As a fighter? He’s talented, he has a gift. I can’t say a thing about that. But I don’t think he can take it against me,” Santos said. “He can’t handle someone who hits him hard, who doesn’t fall for his games. His fight with Anderson, you can see he’s not that big of a deal.

”But that’s something to think about down the line, I can’t think about it now. I have to think about Jon Jones. I think that, if things go right against Jon Jones and I win, I might unify both belts.”

Santos won eight of his last nine bouts in the UFC, finishing seven of his opponents in two different weight classes, and challenges Jones for the 205-pound title at the T-Mobile Arena on July 6.