Leonardo Santos was undefeated in the UFC for nearly eight years, but now finds himself trying to rebound from back-to-back stoppage losses to Grant Dawson and Clay Guida as he faces Jared Gordon at UFC 278 this Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Speaking on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca, the decorated grappler reflected on how decades of experience in jiu-jitsu, grappling and MMA helped him deal with defeats in a more positive way.
“It’s something you learn, you live with it,” Santos said. “You go through different stages in your life, good and bad moments, moments when the loss comes and boosts your energy. And today, even though I’m more experienced, I don’t like losing. It gave me fuel to try to evolve more and get better at what I was doing.”
“I’m in the UFC for a long time and I was winning all the time, and then you start to lose, you have to wake up and fix the machine and go back to winning,” he added. “I don’t like to lose, I’m not used to losing, I wasn’t born to lose. We stumble along the way and I see it as a learning experience.
“I’m anxious to go back there and test myself again. Last time wasn’t good, but we’re used to losing, winning, coming back and winning. I compete since I was 8 years old, so the idea is to always get better, fight after fight, and fix the mistakes.”
Santos’ eight-fight unbeaten run in the UFC included victories over the likes of Kevin Lee and Anthony Rocco Martin, but he was on the receiving end of a submission loss last time around, tapping to a rear-naked choke against Guida.
“It hurt my soul, but we’re professionals,” Santos said of losing via submission for the first time in 20 years as a MMA fighter. “I’ve been fighting for a long time. I had that in my mind ever since I made the transition to MMA because it’s not about grappling, you have punches involved.
“I’ve seen many guys with good jiu-jitsu getting submitted, so it happens. If you overthink that you don’t evolve, you don’t grow. I stumbled, but we’re back to the next one.”
The next step in Santos’ MMA career will be in the preliminary portion of UFC 278, and he expects Gordon to welcome exchanges with him on the ground.
“He’s a tough guy that likes to stand on the feet but doesn’t run away away from the ground, so it’s a fight that interest me,” Santos said. “
That’s something I can capitalize on. He doesn’t like to stay on the outside just hitting and moving around, he always comes in. Even if he tries to change something, I don’t believe he’ll walk away from his origins.”