8 Questions for Leonardo Santos

By Christian Stein Nov 12, 2021

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Leonardo Santos finds himself in uncharted territory.

The 41-year-old Nova Uniao export on Dec. 4 will attempt to rebound from his first Ultimate Fighting Championship defeat when he meets former Strikeforce champion Clay Guida in a UFC on ESPN 31 lightweight confrontation at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Santos saw his 13-fight unbeaten streak grind to a halt on March 20, when he succumbed to punches from Grant Dawson at UFC on ESPN 21. The loss was his first in nearly 12 years.

In this exclusive interview with Sherdog.com, Santos touches on his ill-fated encounter with Dawson, the lack of activity throughout his career and his forthcoming showdown with Guida:

Sherdog: How are you dealing with your first UFC loss?
Santos: It had been a long time. I barely remembered the taste of defeat. I had been on a winning streak for 11 years since my loss in Japan [to Kazunori Yokota]. I went into the fight against Dawson with a high degree of confidence. Unfortunately, I lost. It didn’t work out, but I accept the result. All my losses have been learning experiences. This was no different. I’m looking to reinvent myself, and I’m training harder every day so I can get back to winning.

Sherdog: What do you think went wrong against Dawson?
Santos: We watched that fight again. It played out as expected. He tried to hold me against the fence and win by points. We felt I had won the first and second rounds. Later, we saw the scorecards, and somehow, the judges awarded him every round. We checked out some MMA websites, and everyone was scoring the first two rounds for me and the third round to him. I tried to rush to make something happen at the end of the third round. He hit me with good hammerfists with seconds left. In the end, a loss is a loss. I’m changing my way of fighting going forward. I plan to go back to basics and use my base, which is jiu-jitsu. I’ll pressure my next opponent into making a mistake.

Sherdog: You have been on the UFC roster since 2013, but you have averaged roughly one appearance per year. Why?
Santos: In truth, there’s been some bad luck. Sometimes, I’d get booked, but I’d get hurt. Other times, my opponent would get hurt. On top of that—and I’m not sure why—a lot of time would go by without hearing from the UFC about any bout offers. I think that problem may have been resolved. I fought in March, and now I’m booked again. Things are getting back to normal.

Sherdog: You were supposed to face Alexander Hernandez in October but ended up withdrawing from that fight. What happened?
Santos: Regarding my last booking, I suffered a second-degree strain on my calf. I asked for an additional three weeks to recover. My doctor said it takes three to five weeks. I was hoping to face the same opponent, with a postponement, but the UFC couldn’t do that.

Sherdog: How has your camp gone?
Santos: My training has been going great. I’m very happy to be fighting again, especially considering the difficult situation most of the world is in because of the COVID pandemic. I’m thankful to the UFC and [UFC President] Dana White for their professionalism. I’m ready for war again. I’m looking forward to bringing another win back to Nova Uniao.

Can you talk about facing Guida instead?
Santos: I was feeling down after dropping out of my fight in October, especially since my training camp had been going very well. I was really thrilled to find out the UFC booked me against such a great name in the UFC. He has a storied career in the promotion. I’ve been looking to face a fighter with such recognition for years now. I’m extremely happy to be sharing the Octagon with him.

Sherdog: During your long winning streak, you did not get to face any Top 10 opponents. Your next opponent is not ranked. How do you feel about that?
Santos: In the lightweight class, anyone in the Top 20 can put on a show. It’s a difficult fight for any opponent.

Sherdog: What’s next for you?
Santos: Hopefully, I’ll score another win. As far as the UFC, they’re a mystery to me. I never know what they’ll do next. I went on a seven-fight winning streak in the UFC—I remained undefeated for 11 years—but they never gave me any of the high-level opponents I called out. Nowadays, you’ll see someone jump in the rankings from number 13 straight to number 5. It’s all politics. It’s part of the game. Advertisement
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