UFC middleweight and title contender Ronaldo Souza is well on the mend from his March elbow surgery, and as his expected August return date draws closer the Brazilian terror is letting it be known that he’s “done” fighting opponents that are behind him in the rankings.
In an interview with UFC Tonight, Souza’s manager, Gilberto Faria, stated that “Jacare” – currently ranked at No. 4 in the 185 pound weight class and carrying a 3 – 0 record in the senior circuit – is only interested in squaring off against the likes of champion Chris Weidman or No. 3 ranked Vitor Belfort, and nothing else.
As Faria stated:
“We are done fighting guys behind us in the rankings. It's time to release the beast!"
Further, Souza’s manager noted that his fighter was prepared to step in and face either Weidman or his UFC 175 opponent, Lyoto Machida, should either one of them be injured in the lead up to their July 5 bout.
As to his stated request, Souza has the credentials to make the demand. Riding a six fight winning streak, inclusive of five finishes over the run, the former Strikeforce champion has proven himself a powerful and well-rounded fighter.
Further, Souza is the middleweight that handed long-time UFC veteran Yushin Okami his walking papers from the promotion back in September of last year, when he TKO’d “Thunder” in the first round of their match at UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Bader. Beyond that, Souza has a (Strikeforce) win over division rival and rising star, Tim Kennedy.
As such, and given the current state of the division, a title shot or a fight with Vitor Belfort might well be in order for Souza. However, Belfort has already been promised his own title shot – given that he can get licensed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission – and subsequently, might not be available for a bout with “Jacare.”
If this is the case, and Souza cannot get the fights that he’s looking for, then the brand may well look to pair “Jacare” with Luke Rockhold. The “America Kickboxing Academy” fighter is the one that dethroned Souza from his Strikeforce title, and is also the last man to have a win over “Jacare” – September of 2011. As such, a match between Souza and the No. 5 ranked Rockhold is a fight that not only makes a great deal of sense, but is also one that fans would probably like to see. However, as Rockhold is sidelined with an indefinite medical suspension he might not be available for Souza’s anticipated summer return.
Taking into account the injuries in the division, inclusive on Anderson Silva not coming back until sometime next year, as well as matches that have been made and promised, Souza may not get what he’s looking for in the way of an opponent. If all of this proves to be the case, then fans shouldn’t be surprised if they end up seeing Souza vs. Tim Kennedy, and a rematch of their August of 2010 Strikeforce title fight – a bout Souza won by unanimous decision. As Kennedy is healthy and “Jacare” will be soon, and given that Kennedy feels that he’s only one fight away from a title shot, perhaps Souza vs. Kennedy II is the fight that makes most sense for the brand and the fighters. Regarding it, it’s hard to think that fans would complain about seeing the No. 4 and No. 6 ranked fighters squaring off in a title challengers match.