Former Strikeforce champion and top UFC middleweight contender Ronaldo ‘Jacaré’ Souza is at a strange point in his career. The Brazilian is experiencing a competitive high with seven wins in eight UFC fights, but the BJJ wizard is struggling to get big opportunities – while middleweight champion Michael Bisping is currently chasing his second “money fight” in a row against the returning Georges St-Pierre instead of taking care of ranked contenders.
With no date set for Bisping vs. St-Pierre and top contender Yoel Romero making it clear that he’ll wait for his own title shot after that fight, Souza opted to keep active and risk his shot at the belt. The Brazilian is scheduled to face dangerous knockout striker Robert Whittaker on April 15 at UFC on FOX 24.
“I’ve been very anxious but nowadays I don’t suffer anymore”, Souza said about his situation. “I’m calm and settled with my work in the UFC and earning a good salary. I’m winning more than Bisping since he doesn’t fight [laughs]. If he’s getting by through pay-per-view points he’s dead, because his fight with Dan Henderson was (expletive).”
In the not too distant past, “Jacaré” preferred not to talk much about his opponents and instead showed a maximum of respect to create an atmosphere where the martial arts are the focus. This mentality has changed a bit over time.
“(Trash talk) didn’t happen because it didn’t have to happen, but sometimes I didn’t tell the truth, (I didn’t say) what I had to say. If I were to do something different, I would’ve spoken the truth more, like ‘Look, this guy is a loser.’ In the old days, I would say that I wouldn’t change (my approach). (But) I’m just telling you the truth, how it is, and I should have done that a long time ago.”
But despite being overlooked sometimes when it comes to the big fights and feeling anger towards some of his potential opponents – “Jacaré” repeatedly claimed that both Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold are ducking him –, the Brazilian stressed that he doesn’t want to join the current trend in MMA of chasing money fights by talking himself up. Inspired by the astonishing success of outspoken Irish superstar Conor McGregor, several fighters recently began to focus on fights that would generate the most interest rather than the ones that made the most sense as far as rankings are concerned.
“I stopped thinking about the belt, it seems like I’m running after the wind”, Souza said. “I’m working, going one step at a time. There’s no use asking for (the title), I have to work […]. Making money is very good, but if these money fights happen because the UFC allows them to happen, I can’t do anything.”