UFC 224 winner Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos will walk the walk – but won't trash-talk

RIO DE JANEIRO – Former Jungle Fight champion Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos is on a five-fight winning streak in the UFC’s highly competitive welterweight division.

That’s tied for third longest active streak in the weight class – behind only Santiago Ponzinibbio and Kamaru Usman. Dos Santos’ sole UFC loss came in his promotional debut, which ended on a split call in Nicolas Dalby’s favor, and since then he’s collected three “Fight of the Night” bonuses.

And while his most recent display, at UFC 224, didn’t land any bonuses, it sure was eye-popping. Dos Santos (19-5 MMA, 5-1 UFC) dropped Sean Strickland (19-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) with a beautiful spinning heel kick, which didn’t need too much following up before the ref stepped in to stop the fight in the first round (via Twitter):

Despite it all, dos Santos remains a largely quiet presence. He’s yet to meet ranked competition, he’s yet to be ranked himself, and you won’t see him getting a ton of callouts from his peers.

So what’s missing for dos Santos to be looked at more attentively?

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Zaleski said after his FS1-televised UFC 224 preliminary-card fight at Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena. “I’m doing my job, and I can speak for that.”

While there aren’t many easy answers to that question, one can speculate. In a sport in which talking outside the cage isn’t everything – but often helps – dos Santos is not one for calling out people, making bold claims about his future, baiting people into Twitter beefs, or getting into heated cageside arguments.

And if that hurts his pull within the promotion and fans?

Oh well.

“I started in fighting when I was 9; my nickname is ‘Capoeira’ because that’s where I started,” dos Santos said. “And I take this discipline with me. I do it because I enjoy it. Of course, now I have monetary needs – and fighting, thankfully, helps me a lot with that now. But I do this looking to better myself. Unfortunately, if talking, fighting, cursing out someone’s family – if that sells, that’s up to each person. 

“I do think, in there, the martial arts essence ends up being lost with that, but to each their own. I go by the way I think, by my methods, I’ll throw hands as long as I can, and that’s how I’m going to showcase my work.”

Not that dos Santos hasn’t tried asking for opponents. After that proved ineffective, though, he’s decided not to take that route anymore. While there are “many guys” the Brazilian would like to fight – preferably adding up to another two fights this year – dos Santos is perfectly comfortable letting UFC officials figure out who those people are and just send the names his way.

Now, of course he wants to climb the 170-pound ladder. And, as he told MMAjunkie before this Saturday’s battle, dos Santos had hopes that a win over Strickland would mean a step up competition – at least as far as rankings are concerned, as he made sure to point out Strickland was as tough a competitor as any.

Like the rest of his peers, dos Santos wants to fight the best in the world. He just happens to have a laissez-faire approach to that.

“I want to keep fighting and doing what I like,” dos Santos said. “What I like is this: throwing hands and feeling happy.”

As remarkably zen as dos Santos seems to be about the fight game, though, his passionate response to a question shows there are certain things that can get to him. More specifically, colleagues who take low blows against their opponents and end up smearing a sport that already has a tricky reputation – or offending entire nations.

“It’s hard to arrive at someone’s house and explain to them that this is sport when there are idiots talking a bunch of crap,” dos Santos said. “The thing that gets to me the most is when people talk about the other person’s family. Man, this is absurd. Talking about my family? Of course, it can work psychologically, but there’s no need for that. 

“Especially talking about an entire nation, like certain fighters who should really wash their mouths before talking about a wonderful nation like Brazil. A country that comes from such great suffering, but where we know that more than 90 percent of people are doing the right thing. They work, get up early and have to support themselves and their families. This, no one else sees. All everyone sees are criminals and politics – which unfortunately is terrible in Brazil. But what about the rest? So you really need to think before you speak and to live with what you say.”

For complete coverage of UFC 224, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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