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Leonardo Santos Says It’ll Be ‘An Honor’ to Fight Clay Guida at UFC on ESPN 31



Coming off his first loss in nine Octagon appearances, Nova Uniao standout Leonardo Santos is excited to make his promotional return on Saturday against Clay Guida at UFC on ESPN 31.

“I’m really motivated for this fight,” Santos said. “Guida is a legend of the UFC who has already defeated names like Takanori Gomi, Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis. The guy has almost 60 fights to his credit and despite being nearly 40 years old — like myself — he is still giving a hard time to many top talents of the division. It's gonna be an honor to share the Octagon with him.”

Santos was in camp with longtime friend and teammate Jose Aldo, who will fight Fob Font in the UFC on ESPN 31 main event. Santos revealed that he didn’t spend too much time sparring with the former featherweight champion.

“Nova Uniao is such a paradise of lightweight fighters,” Santos said. “Even when we were in close proximity, we needed to face different styles, so we didn’t spar too much. But from what I could see, I can tell you Aldo is in great shape, and I believe he will finish Font before the fifth round.”

Santos uses Aldo’s resurgence in the bantamweight division as motivation and expects his teammate to return to championship contention once again in the near future.

“He already reached [the top of the sport]. Aldo doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody and when I see his hard work and his everyday evolution, it fires me up,” Santos said. “For everything I´ve seen from him, I have no doubt Aldo will get the title shot again.”

Considered the best lightweight in jiu-jitsu for almost 10 years, Santos has faced the best of three different generations in gi and no-gi competitions — squaring off against the likes of Royler Gracie, Marcelo Garcia, Fernando Terere and Leonardo Vieira. In ADCC competition, Santos submitted Georges St. Pierre with an unbelievable flying armlock in 2001.

“Many people said I was crazy because I could have made much more money staying in jiu-jitsu, but I’m moved by challenges and doing MMA was my biggest challenge,” said the 41 year-old pupil of Andre Pederneiras.

“At the beginning I was just a one-dimensional jiu-jitsu fighter but Aldo, B.J. Penn and GSP helped advise me to be a complete fighter, and I trained hard to improve my stand-up. Today, I feel comfortable in any area and I’m going to show that once again against Guida.”

But even with all his evolution in the stand-up game, Santos doesn’t attempt to disguise the fact that the ground game is his primary plan for Saturday.

“I´m not going to run from a stand-up fight with Guida, but of course I won’t miss any opportunity to showcase my skills on the ground,” he said.

When it comes to the top of the lightweight division, Santos is cheering for his fellow Brazilian, Charles Oliveira, to continue his championship reign and earn the most lucrative matchups possible. Oliveira will face Dustin Poirier in the UFC 269 main event on Dec. 12.

“Of course Justin Gaethje is the one who deserves the [next title shot] most, but I wouldn't be surprised if [Islam] Makhachev cut the line,” Santos said. “There is a clear campaign to take him to the belt as soon as possible. But if you ask me, I’m cheering for Charles to win and face [Conor] McGregor in his next fight so he can provide a better future for his family.”

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