Ronaldo Souza’s middleweight clash with Uriah Hall was one of the few match-ups that stayed intact for UFC 249 on April 18, and “Jacare” doesn’t hide that money is one of the things that motivates him to leave his wife and three kids at home and travel to California to compete during a global pandemic.
UFC 249 was originally scheduled to take place at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, but most states were forced to shut down arenas and impose quarantine measures due to the COVID-19 outbreak around the country. The pay-per-view show is now reportedly set for Tachi Palace Casino Resort on tribal land.
“In a way [fighting is] good because we’ll be able to take care of our families,” Souza told MMA Fighting. “I know the world is going crazy, but I believe Dana White will keep us all safe and put us to work. I pray that everything goes right.”
“Jacare” admits he’s concerned about the health of himself and his relatives when he travels back home after next week’s show, but ultimately trusts the company to keep him safe outside of his house in Florida and competing hundreds of miles away.
“I’m scared, that’s normal. Everyone’s scared,” he said. “We try to keep everyone protected, but I keep thinking about one thing: if I can’t pay my house’s mortgage, if I can’t pay my bills, I’m going to lose my house. If I go out to the streets, that’s when it gets complicated, that’s when they really won’t be protected. I have to take care of my family one way or the other, and I believe… I know the UFC will keep me protected.
“(The UFC) will take care of everybody. I can stay home, walk across the street and my neighbor infects me with the coronavirus. This virus is highly contagious. I can stay home and catch it. But I’m going to work. I hope God blesses Dana White and the UFC so they really can make it happen and I can take care of my family with safety.”
A father of three boys, Souza has been training in his garage for a few weeks now, joined by longtime coach Josuel Distak and a handful of sparring partners. His time off now consists of running after his kids and relaxing between training sessions at home.
“I’ll tell you this, in my years of fighting in the UFC, I’ve been through so many stressing situations that you have no idea, so, to me, this is nothing,” Souza said. “This is nothing to me. It’s just another fight I’ll do. I believe they will make the event happen. If they just wanna tell me the location on fight day, it’s fine any me. I’ll be there, I’ll fight, and I’ll win.
“You see who’s who during tough times, right? As amazing as it sounds, I haven’t seen myself this focused in many years. I believe it’s gonna be a very different fight. You’ll see a very focused athlete going for the win. I’m going there to impose my game and win. You’ll see a very different athlete.”
The jiu-jitsu legend enters UFC 249 on the first losing skid of his MMA career, back-to-back decision losses to Jan Blachowicz and Jack Hermansson. Hall, on the other hand, emerged victorious against Antonio Carlos Junior and Bevon Lewis in his last Octagon appearances.
“I don’t know how he’s training,” he said. “But I’m going there to win, man. I will win no matter how. I already see myself with my hands raised.”
Souza’s lackluster defeat to Blachowicz marked his debut as a light heavyweight in MMA, but he doesn’t rule out going back up to 205 pounds despite his immediate return to middleweight for UFC 249.
If the UFC comes with a good offer at Jon Jones’ weight class, “there’s no problem.” If not, Souza will restart his climb in the 185-pound division.
“It was a really close fight,” Souza said of his five-round split decision setback against Blachowicz in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Nov. 2019. “I did an experience against someone who was knocking everybody out and it was a close fight. Many people thought I was going to die, that he would kill me, but I went there and fought a close fight with him. It was a close fight.”