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Santiago Ponzinibbio still waiting for doctor’s clearance, confident he’s two wins away from UFC belt

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MMA: UFC Fight Night-Buenos Aires-Ponzinibbio vs Magny
Santiago Ponzinibbio headlined UFC's first card in Argentina in 2018, defeating Neil Magny by KO.
Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

Santiago Ponzinibbio scored the biggest win of his MMA career in November 2018, knocking out Neil Magny in the main event of the UFC’s first trip to his home country of Argentina, but hasn’t fought since.

As 2020 starts, the welterweight talent unveiled big plans.

“I want to come back as fast as possible and fight for the belt,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “My idea for 2020 is to fight at least three times, including a title fight. That’s my plan for 2020, brother.”

The American Top Team product was scheduled to face Robbie Lawler in December, but was forced out of the planned bout with a staph infection. Riding a seven-fight winning streak that includes victories over Gunnar Nelson and Mike Perry, Ponzinibbio says the UFC has been offering him fights, but he hasn’t been able to take one until the doctor clears him to compete again.

“Bacterias are a bit complicated, it really affected my immune system,” Ponzinibbio said. “It’s not like a knee injury that needs surgery and then you know how long the recovery will take. This bacteria stuff, it depends a lot. It might last longer in one person. It’s a whole world I didn’t really know. It’s complex.”

Ponzinibbio confirms he was removed from the official welterweight ranking by the UFC due to inactivity, but said “the UFC told me I will be back to the same position I was before as soon as I have a fight.” The UFC is aware of his health status as he’s been to the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas to talk to doctors, Ponzinibbio said, so his relationship with the company is good.

The 170-pounder doesn’t know for sure when he will be able to re-enter the Octagon, though, but wants someone that gets him closer to a shot at the gold.

“If I could choose, I’d fight the champion tomorrow, (Kamaru) Usman, or a top-5, but there are no options in the top-5,” Ponzinibbio said. “Tyron (Woodley) will fight (Leon) Edwards in March, so a fight (against the winner) wouldn’t happen until June or July. (Colby) Covington just broke his jaw and can’t fight.

“(Jorge) Masvidal is seeking other fights, taking about the belt or Conor (McGregor). Demian (Maia) already has a fight. Michael Chiesa is an option, he just fought and won, and did a good fight with (Rafael) dos Anjos. And there’s Lawler. It’s a matter of availability, too.”

“Gente Boa” doesn’t pay much attention to the UFC rankings these days. He had a love-hate relationship with the list after being moved up and down for no apparent reason, and Chiesa’s presence in the top-10 makes him question its logic once again.

“Many things don’t make sense there, so I don’t worry about it,” Ponzinibbio said. “I’m worried about my health and when I’ll be able to work. I have 15 fights and 13 wins in the UFC, including The Ultimate Fighter. I won seven in a row, and I’m finishing people. I never had a boring fight.

“This ranking doesn’t make sense. Michael Chiesa wasn’t ranked, beat Rafael dos Anjos, and now he’s No. 7. I beat three ranked opponents, knocked out the No. 8 and went to No. 7. I fought Mike Perry, who was No. 15 —but I still took the fight— and dropped to No. 10 after winning. They gave me the No. 8 again and I knocked him out to go to No. 7.

“It doesn’t make sense, but I don’t care anymore. I always put on a show, my fights are always fun, so I’m just worried about coming back, putting on a great fight, and then another one, and then fight for the title.”