It may be one final title shot push for Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza. Photo: Ed Mulholland/Getty
UFC 230 is now available on Amazon Prime.
Former Strikeforce champion Ronaldo Souza, the man more commonly referred to as “Jacare,” will clash with Chris Weidman in the UFC 230 co-main event on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. Firmly established as one of the greatest grapplers in mixed martial arts history, Souza continues to chase an elusive Ultimate Fighting Championship title shot.
As “Jacare” prepares for his high-stakes encounter with Weidman, here are five things you might not know about the 38-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt:
1. Soccer was his first love.
Like most Brazilians, Souza was passionate about soccer as a child and spent much of his time kicking the ball around with his friends. Goalkeeper was his favorite position, and he excelled at it by all accounts. Souza might have pursued it further had he not chosen the combat sports route instead. “Jacare,” Anderson Silva and Cristiane Justino all took penalty kicks against a professional goalie during a promotional event for UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil, in 2016. Souza scored with a shot into the top right corner of the goal. Video of his efforts appeared on Twitter.
2. His grappling achievements are almost too numerous to list.
Souza started his judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu training at the same time but made his mark with the latter. He is an eight-time Confederacao Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu world champion -- three of them coming as a back belt -- and placed first at two CBJJ Pan American Championships tournaments in 2004. Meanwhile, Souza was a gold medalist in the 2004 BJJ World Cup and struck silver at the event a year later. “Jacare” has also enjoyed phenomenal success in no-gi grappling, becoming an Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships gold medalist in 2005.
3. He lost his first MMA fight.
Owing to his high-level grappling skills, Souza decided to forego an amateur MMA career and instead went directly to the professional ranks. He made his debut at Jungle Fight 1 on Sept. 13, 2003 and found himself on the receiving end of a Jorge Patino knockout a little more than three minutes into the first round. “Jacare” responded by winning his next 10 bouts.
4. He endured a rough upbringing.
Souza, by own admission, ran with the wrong crowd as a teenager. He witnessed the murder of one of his best friends on his 15th birthday, and the event had a profound impact on him. “Jacare” moved to Manaus after the incident and lived with his brother. There, he met his future sensei, Henrique Machado. The judo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt saw promise in Souza, took him under his wing and became a father figure, all while exposing him to world-class training.
5. He took his nickname from his team’s logo.
“Jacare” means alligator in Portuguese. The animal is the symbol of the Associacao Sensei de Lutas Esportivas jiu-jitsu and judo academy in Manaus, Brazil. It was there at the age of 17 that Souza began his combat sports training. He devoted so much time to the gym that fellow members started calling him “Jacare,” and the name stuck.
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