Thiago Santos, a former contender for the UFC light heavyweight championship, is hoping to make a statement under a new promotional banner.
Former UFC champions Anthony Pettis, Jeremy Stephens, Rory MacDonald, and Olivier Aubin-Mercier are among those who have previously moved from the Octagon to the Professional Fighters League’s SmartCage.
After leaving the MMA leader, UFC in 2022, a new wave will make their debuts this year in the PFL’s unique season and playoff structure. That also features Thiago Santos, Marlon Moraes, Aspen Ladd, and former bantamweight championship challenger.
During his time competing under the UFC’s auspices, “Marreta” established a reputation as one of the division’s top powerhouses at light heavyweight, most notably by submitting Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz on the way to a 2019 title fight against Jon Jones, who was then the division’s undisputed champion.
The Brazilian struggled to find his form after losing by a split decision. Most recently, he experienced failures at the hands of Jamahal Hill and Magomed Ankalaev, which resulted in his departure from the group.
But, Santos’ MMA career is very far from over. As a participant in the PFL light heavyweight season, he hopes to recreate himself in a new setting. When he competes against 2022 champion Rob Wilkinson on April 1, his campaign will officially begin.
Many people have been paying close attention to Santos and Moraes’ performances leading up to the promotion’s season opener because they believe they will be able to determine whether they can still fight at a high level based on their performances.
The possibility for “Marreta” to make his debut against last year’s champion gives him the ideal opportunity.
Santos aims to start the new chapter off strong.
Santos spoke privately to MMA News’ Curtis Calhoun as he prepared for his first visit to the SmartCage on April 1 at The Theater at Virgin Hotels.
The 39-year-old Brazilian acknowledged that the move ushers in a new era in his mixed martial arts career, one he hopes gets off to a winning start with a memorable victory over Wilkinson.
Speaking to MMA News, he said, “Yes, it is like (a new chapter). I’m very excited. I know, in my mind, I don’t have a long time (left) doing MMA. So, I would like to do new things, enjoy a new promotion, new challenges. It is a big opportunity… I want to do my best. I want to put on a show, put on great fights.
“Yeah, (I’m looking to make a statement). It doesn’t matter against who (I was going to be matched against). I would do my best to win, to start in PFL the best way possible. But against him, it will be even better because he is the last champion,” Santos continued. “Everyone knows him… I’m training very hard to begin in the best way possible. Against the last champion, it will be even better.”
It’s obvious that Santos anticipates a revitalised performance on fight night in Las Vegas, despite the fact that he may have raised his hand only once since 2019, a unanimous decision victory over Johnny Walker.
Santos will be competing for the $1 million prize money up for grabs after defeating Wilkinson and going up against the likes of Omari Akhmedov, Krzysztof Jotko, and Irish standout Will Fleury.