Santiago Ponzinibbio seems like a lock to headline the UFC’s first event in Chile.
The company will break into a South American market other than Brazil for the first time in its history later this spring, and Argentina’s Ponzinibbio (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) said he’s the perfect fit to main event against a notable name in the welterweight division.
“I think it’s a good opportunity to headline the fight in Chile,” Ponzinibbio told MMAjunkie. “I am the guy from South America. I have a big following in Argentina, in Brazil, in Chile – everywhere. They know me after ‘TUF: Brazil.’ It’s a good opportunity to have a big fight for the fans. The fans know I am ready for a big fight.”
UFC Fight Night 129 takes place May 19 at Movistar Arena in Santiago, Chile. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
Ponzinibbio, an honorable mention in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA welterweight rankings, is unbeaten over his past six UFC appearances. He’s coming off a win over Mike Perry at UFC on FOX 26 in December and has been asking for a high-profile matchup since.
There are plenty of marquee names not presently booked at 170 pounds. Ponzinibbio said he would ultimately take on anyone for the chance to fight in Chile, but given his body of work over the past several years, he said a person with name value, such as former title challengers Stephen Thompson (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) and Donald Cerrone (33-10 MMA, 20-7 UFC), would serve his desires well.
“I am ready for the top five,” Ponzinibbio said. “I am ready for anyone in this division. I could fight Tyron Woodley tomorrow. I am ready for any situation. I asked the UFC for ‘Wonderboy’ (Thompson), because I think we would have an exciting fight. Two high-level striker guys, and Cerrone too.
“I would want ‘Wonderboy,’ but I think he has an injury and still has to rehab. If ‘Wonderboy’ can’t, OK, give me Cerrone. I think it’s an exciting fight for the fans. For the first time in Chile, it would be a really exciting fight I think.”
The challenging part of getting big fights in the modern UFC landscape is that athletes are reluctant to fight down in the rankings. “Cowboy” is No. 13 in the latest rankings, while Thompson is holding down the No. 2 spot in the division.
A matchup with Thompson is at the top of Ponzinibbio’s list, he said. The karate specialist is apparently still nursing multiple hand injuries, though, and Ponzinibbio said he doesn’t think he will be cleared in time with UFC Fight Night 129 just over two months away.
If Thompson is off the table as a realistic option, Ponzinibbio thinks Cerrone should be the guy. Not just because he has a ranking, but also because Cerrone would likely be one of few actually willing to travel to Chile and fight Ponzinibbio in potentially hostile territory.
“Not many guys like to fight in other’s towns, but Cerrone will do it,” Ponzinibbio said. “For this reason I think Cerrone is a very good option. I know he will fight anyone in any country. I have six victories in a row, I have big knockouts, and I deserve to fight guys in the top five. But if I don’t have that fight it’s OK, because Cerrone will be very exciting for the fans.”
For more on UFC Fight Night 129, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Santiago Ponzinibbio expects UFC-Chile headliner, prefers Stephen Thompson or Donald Cerrone