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Recovering Thiago Santos believes Jon Jones will remain champion ‘until I come back’

Thiago Santos underwent surgery on both knees after losing to Jon Jones in July.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

More than seven weeks have passed since Thiago Santos fought Jon Jones for five rounds on a badly injured knee and had to undergo surgery, but his recovery has been great so far.

The Brazilian fighter, who lost a close decision at UFC 239, didn’t leave Las Vegas after the contest. Sleeping at a hotel and doing his physical therapy twice a day at the UFC Performance Institute, “Marreta” says his knees are reacting well to the rehabilitation.

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Quase lá! . Almost there!

A post shared by Thiago "Marreta" Santos (@tmarretamma) on

Right after the surgery on July 18, Santos heard from the doctors that it would likely take him eight months before coming back to training. He’s still far getting cleared to train again, but his recovery makes him more optimistic.

“Thank God it’s going great, things are going better than expected,” Santos told MMA Fighting moments before his first session of the week on Monday morning. “My recovery is going really fast. It’s wonderful. I think it’s possible that I come back before.”

Santos has no timetable for a comeback yet, and won’t even think about it.

“My recovery is more important than the surgery itself. It’s about how you treat the injury,” Santos said. “I can’t speed things up and do things the doctor hasn’t cleared me to do yet. I have no rush. I don’t want to go through all this again.

“Some athletes go through similar surgeries and have to go under the knife again because they didn’t have a good recovery, and I don’t want to go through this again. I’ll come back when I really am 100 percent. God forbid having to go under the knife again [laughs].”

As for his next opponent in the Octagon, the light heavyweight contender doesn’t like the idea of taking a tune-up fight after such a serious injury. In fact, “Marreta” offers to return straight into another title fight with “Bones” Jones.

“If it was up to me, being 100 percent, I don’t like this idea that, ‘Oh, he needs one (easier) fight because he’s coming off a long layoff,’” Santos said. “I don’t think it’s needed. But I know it’s hard for the UFC to do that, to come back in a title fight. I believe they would give me a fight and a good performance would earn me another title fight. I believe that’s what’s going to happen.”

Until then, the Tata Fight Team product doesn’t see any other fighter dethroning Jones.

“I think he remains champion,” Santos said. “He remains champion until I come back.”

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