Thiago Santos is saying all the right things leading up to his title fight against Jon Jones.
“I am the guy that will win against Jon Jones,” he said, not that anyone would expect him to say differently.
He trained hard, he feels prepared and he’ll do his best to accomplish his dream of becoming a UFC champion.
The problem is, in 12 title fights, nobody has taken Jones down.
So what’s the difference for “Marreta?”
“My power,” he said. “I will do it.”
It’s hard to argue against his approach. All but two of his 13 UFC wins have come by way of knockout, and he debatably carries the most dangerous one-punch power Jones has faced since Vitor Belfort at UFC 152.
Santos has given himself plenty of chances to showcase that power frequently, fighting four times in the last 11 months – all wins – and he’s hoping his fifth fight in less than a year is the one that cashes in on the hard work.
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“This is my dream,” he said. “I win the belt, go to Brazil, this is a dream. Not just (for) me, but a lot of people in my country, and in my city and my City of God, this is our dream.”
Santos would be just the fourth light heavyweight champion this decade (Jones, Daniel Cormier and Shogun Rua), and Jones hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down any time soon. Santos, donning his signature fight-week sunglasses, isn’t fazed in the slightest. Jones has Santos’ respect, but his self-confidence isn’t shaken.
“I like him, how he fights,” Santos said. “He’s intelligent, a great fighter. But now, I will win against him.”
Other fighters displayed the same levels of determination while also adding their names to Jones’ list of victims. Santos’ confidence doesn’t stem from anything superstitious or exceptionally special, but rather, an inevitability.
“Everybody loses one day,” Santos said. “I feel very good. This is my time and my moment, so I’m very prepared for that fight.”
Thiago Santos: Top 5 Finishes
Thiago Santos: Top 5 Finishes
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Whether it’s opening UFC 231’s main card with a jaw-dropping slugfest against Jimi Manuwa or proving his status as a real title contender by beating Jan Blachowicz in Prague, Santos has impressed at every stop since moving up to light heavyweight. He stayed busy, ended fights early and did so in stunning fashion. Although Santos has hinted at chasing the middleweight belt, he doesn’t plan to do so on a quick turnaround.
“After this fight, I want a little vacation because I need it; my family needs to stay close with me,” he said. “I want a little vacation.”
Win or lose, Santos definitely deserves some time to himself, and based on what he’s shown of late, it’s not completely inconceivable to imagine that vacation featuring the championship belt if things go his way on July 6.
“I will do my best,” Santos said. “I will be the champion.”
Zac Pacleb is a writer and producer for UFC.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ZacPacleb.