Thiago Santos still focused on UFC light heavyweight title, even if it means fighting into 40s

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Thiago Santos may currently be on a losing skid, but his confidence hasn’t wavered.

Santos (21-8 MMA, 13-7 UFC) will look to get back into the win column when he takes on Aleksandar Rakic at UFC 259, which takes place Saturday, March 6 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Despite losing his last two bouts, Santos has had moments of brilliance in the octagon, including finishes of current 205-pound champion Jan Blachowicz and former title challenger Anthony Smith.

His past two blemishes came in a narrow split decision loss to former UFC light heavyweight king Jon Jones and a submission loss to top contender Glover Teixeira. But, despite his recent setbacks, the 37-year-old Brazilian insists he has plenty of fight left in him and is willing to compete into his 40s in order to reach his ultimate goal.

“My goal is to become the UFC champion,” Santos told MMA Junkie. “I’m not in the UFC just to be in the UFC. I plan to fight past the age of 40. It all depends on how much my body can take. As long as I can have good performances, I’ll keep working at it.”

At UFC 259 he’ll take on dangerous prospect Rakic (13-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC), who has been near-flawless in the octagon. A prolific finisher himself, Santos knows he’s in for a barnburner and he welcomes the challenge he knows the Austrian will bring on fight night.

“Aleksandar is super tough,” Santos said. “He’s young. He’s scored several great wins in the UFC. He’s tall, strong, with a great reach. He hits hard. He has very good kickboxing, and uses takedowns and wrestling when necessary. I think it’s going to be an awesome fight.

“On fight night, I believe I’ll be a better version of myself, better than the one who fought Glover. I’m going to surprise everyone. Without a doubt, it’s going to be a great fight. Fans should not miss this one. We’re both very aggressive. I’m ready to bring home another win.”

Returning from more than a year away due to double knee surgery, Santos admits he experienced some ring rust in his loss to Teixeira at UFC on ESPN 17. But “Marreta” offers no excuses and is ready to move on.

“Against Glover, he did what he had to do,” Santos said. “He was very strategic. We knew what he was going to do. I trained hard for that bout. I was ready. My wrestling and jiu-jitsu were on point. By that time, I was fully recovered from COVID-19. What really weighed on me was the time away from the octagon. The lack of fight time made the difference. Glover deserves full credit. Now, I am completely focused on what’s ahead, on winning my next fight.”

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