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Jacare Souza reflects on main ‘mistake’ during UFC run, ‘could have put my foot down’ and waited for title shot

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UFC 198 Open Workout Photos
Jacare Souza (pictured)has beaten the likes of Derek Brunson, Gegard Mousasi and Vitor Belfort in MMA
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Jacare Souza announced his retirement from MMA after suffering the first submission defeat of his career at UFC 262, which resulted in a broken arm. Focused on building his own jiu-jitsu team after his setback against Andre Muniz, Souza looked back at his career and reflected on what it could have been had he made different choices.

A former Strikeforce middleweight titleholder and multiple-time champion in jiu-jitsu and grappling, Souza was close to getting a shot at the UFC gold in several occasions, but something would always get in his way. In 2015, when he was on a roll with five wins in five UFC appearances, including stoppages over Gegard Mousasi and Yushin Okami, he was on the losing end of a controversial split decision to Yoel Romero, a bout he still has “no doubt in my mind that I won.”

Back to the winning column in 2016 with first-round beatdowns over Vitor Belfort and Tim Boetsch, “Jacare” was hoping to be next in line for Michael Bisping, who had just defended his middleweight throne against No. 13 ranked Dan Henderson.

Bisping took almost a year off before facing Georges St-Pierre, and Souza decided to stay active instead, facing Robert Whittaker just two months after his win over Boetsch. Souza lost via second-round stoppage, all but derailing his title hopes.

“I don’t keep overthinking things that happened in the past, I always aim at the future,” he said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I think that when someone keeps talking too much about that past it’s because he’s afraid of the future.

“But I do believe I’ve made a mistake. People that were with me have made mistakes. For example, could have put my foot down and said, ‘No, now we’ll wait and fight when it’s our turn [for the belt].’ That didn’t happen, but I can’t cry about it now. If there were mistakes made, I think that’s it.”

Souza still hasn’t been cleared to train without restrictions since his loss to Muniz in the UFC, but guarantees that his decision to hang up has nothing to do with the arm break.

“I’ve been fighting for many years,” he said. “I wasn’t that motivated and that’s why I decided to retire. … At the moment I’m not thinking about fighting again, and I believe I won’t think about it in the future. I’ve retired. I’m definitely retired.”

Souza admits he had considered retirement before since he was “tired of doing what I was doing,” but ended up postponing his decision to take a few more fights in the UFC. He left the sport on a four-fight losing skid against Jack Hermansson, Jan Blachowicz, Kevin Holland and Muniz, but he doesn’t regret those decisions.

“What I’ve lived inside the octagon was wonderful, regardless of wins or losses,” he said. “I had the opportunity to go there, work, see people cheering. I had a great time inside the octagon.

“I hope [fans] remember me as someone that has never given up. Losing or winning, [someone] who has always fought. I hope they remember me as someone who really went to battle.”

With MMA now in the rear-view mirror, Souza is now dedicated to his soon-to-be-opened gym in Orlando, Fla., and finally training jiu-jitsu full-time again. “Jacare” said his doctor advised him to avoid hard training for now until his arm is 100 percent fixed.

“Right now I just want to get back to training,” Souza said of the possibility of taking grappling matches in the future. “I’ll think about that later. What I really want now is to train jiu-jitsu, something I haven’t been able to do in a long time.”