Thiago “Marreta” Santos is a veteran UFC fighter with 15 octagon appearances under his belt. But he’s still struggling to make ends meet.
“Without a doubt my life has improved somewhat,” Santos (17-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) told MMAjunkie in advance of a short-notice fight against Eryk Anders (11-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 137, which takes place tonight at Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo. “I’m happy, but things can still improve. I have to win a few more fights.
“I think when I’m champion, I’ll make some real money. I still have to teach classes to help with expenses. I have no complaints, but things aren’t excellent yet.”
Like many other fighters in Brazil, sponsorship money is hard to come by as the country digs itself out of a major recession and constitutional crisis that shook its government to the core. Veteran UFC fighter Jessica Andrade recently said she baked cakes and sold off fight gear to earn extra money.
Brazilian fighters are known for their aggression and tenacity, and Santos is no different in his belief that he will eventually climb to the top of the UFC’s ladder, where big pay raises and pay-per-view points await. But for now, he must toil some more.
Saturday’s fight represents Santos’ first trip to the light heavyweight division. Originally, he was scheduled to face Jimi Manuwa as a stand-in for the injured Glover Teixeira. But just this week, a hamstring injury forced the British slugger to withdraw from the event. In his place went Anders, a tough upstart with a long list of knockout wins.
“We had just arrived in Sao Paulo,” Santos said of the news of Manuwa’s scratch. “On our way to the hotel, we received the news that Manuwa got hurt, and that Anders would be the replacement. Of course, my fight style has to change a bit. Anders is a southpaw. It’s a different fight. But we’re trained. We’ll adapt to the changes this week. We’re staying focused on another victory.”
For the veteran fighter, there’s no other choice if he wants to break through the pack. He must win all of his fights, and many times, in less than ideal circumstances.
Santos has suffered setbacks against Cezar Ferreira, Gegard Mousasi, Eric Spicely, and most recently, David Branch. But he’s got a winning record filled with highlight-reel wins, and he might stand out more in the less crowded light heavyweight division. But for now, he’s taking his future one step at a time.
“I’ll see how I feel,” Santos said. “I’ve never fought in this weight class. The weight cut won’t be so drastic. I won’t suffer as much. That’s a positive. But we’ll see how I feel.
“Of course, I’ll be strong, but I hope not to lose my speed, nor get tired from the extra weight. So, we’ll see how it feels to be facing bigger guys who are used to fighting at 205 pounds, and who’ll be heavier on fight day. So, I don’t know if I’ll stay in this weight class.”
If there are strong incentives, Santos might reconsider.
“I had a few setbacks, but champions aren’t only made of victories,” he said. “I lost a few but I recovered well. I’m very happy with this opportunity. It will be my first main event. God willing, this will be another victory and I’ll move on to bigger things.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: UFC Fight Night 137 headliner Thiago Santos would rather not teach classes to make ends meet