UFC 224 available for order on Amazon Prime (Prime Video PPV)
Ronaldo Souza burst on the mixed martial arts scene as a decorated, once-in-a-generation grappler who had won multiple jiu-jitsu championships on the world stage. His skills transitioned nicely to MMA, where he has compiled a 25-5 record with 21 finishes, 14 of them by submission.
The former Strikeforce middleweight champion will lock horns with Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 224 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro, where he looks to pick up where he left off in a first-round knockout of Derek Brunson in January. Souza’s only two losses in the Ultimate Fighting Championship have come against current middleweight titleholder Robert Whittaker and No. 1 contender Yoel Romero.
Ahead of Souza’s three-round battle with Gastelum, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. Initially, he did not like jiu-jitsu.
Souza’s mentor, Henrique Machado, saw him playing soccer on the streets and invited him to try jiu-jitsu. Machado saw immense potential in “Jacare,” who thought the sport offered too much “man-hugging.” However, it did not take long for Souza to fall in love with the discipline, and he eventually became one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners of all-time.
2. He battled a UFC hall of famer to a draw in a grappling match.
It happened in 2006 at an event for the Professional Submission League, the precursor to Metamoris. After a 10-minute back-and-forth match with Randy Couture, Souza was invited to train at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. “Jacare” accepted the offer and prepared for the 2008 Dream middleweight grand prix at the MMA gym.
3. He left jiu-jitsu for MMA after suffering a broken arm in a match he won.
Souza’s relationship with jiu-jitsu has never grown sour. However, his disappointment with the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation -- he does not believe he received the recognition he deserved from the governing body -- played a role in his transition to full-time MMA. In an open weight pairing with Roger Gracie in 2004, “Jacare” became entangled in an armbar, sustained an injury and kept right on competing. He managed to break free and win on points but not before suffering a broken elbow.
4. He fought in MMA while continuing to compete at the highest level in jiu-jitsu.
A year before his historic win over Gracie, “Jacare” made his pro MMA debut under the Jungle Fight banner. He was paired with the more experienced Jorge Patino, who knocked out Souza in the first round.
5. His manager, Gilberto Faria, almost took to Craigslist to express disappointment at a time when seemingly no one was willing to face the middleweight contender.
“Jacare” only fought one time in 2016 -- a first-round technical knockout of countryman Vitor Belfort. He was slated to rematch Luke Rockhold at UFC Fight Night 101 later that same year, but Rockhold withdrew with a knee injury. When no replacements could be found, Faria posted a fake Craigslist ad on his Instagram account: “We are looking for (an) opponent to fight ‘Ronaldo Jacare Souza’ at 185 lbs. -- UFC middleweight division. Please contact Mick Maynard or Dana White.”
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