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Thiago Santos accepted Alex Gustafsson fight before getting booked for UFC 227

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RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Thiago Santos had a busy month in July even though he didn’t enter the UFC cage to fight.

A couple of months after having his four-fight knockout streak snapped by David Branch at UFC Atlantic City, “Marreta” was offered to replace injured Brad Tavares on short notice against Israel Adesanya. Santos took the fight with no hesitation, but he didn’t know that Tavares wasn’t in fact injured.

The UFC decided to keep Santos as a backup plan for the TUF 27 Finale main event in case something happened to either middleweight, and he flew to Las Vegas and made weight. Adesanya and Tavares were cleared to compete, and Santos pocketed some cash as a thank you for being there for the company.

The TFT middleweight wanted to get back in there as soon as possible though, and didn’t gain much weight after the trip to Las Vegas. A couple of weeks later, he received a call from his manager Alex Davis saying that there was a short-notice opportunity for him.

”I lost a fight, and when we lose we want to get back in there as soon as possible to change this scenario,” Santos told MMA Fighting. “I was asking for fights but it never came. They asked me if I would replace Brad Tavares, so I went there and did my part, made weight. And then they asked me if I would replace (Derek) Brunson and fight (Antonio Carlos Junior) ‘Cara de Sapato’, but that didn’t happen as well. It sucks to just wait.”

“Marreta” says he was offered a couple of bouts at light heavyweight too — replacing Volkan Oezdemir opposite both Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 227 and fellow Brazilian Mauricio Rua at UFC Hamburg.

“I like to fight. I’m a fighter. I don’t pick and choose and wait for the right opponent,” Santos said. “I accepted three fights and it didn’t happen. They even offered me ‘Shogun’, but I turned that one down because I’m a big ‘Shogun’ fan, told my manager I wouldn’t fight him. And then they offered me Gustafsson, and that one I accepted, but he turned it down. I kind of expected that already because I’m a middleweight and he’s a light heavyweight contender, that would be a big risk for him. But I volunteered. If he had said yes, I would have loved to fight him — and wouldn’t even cut weight.”

In the end, the always-game Santos was matched up against UFC newcomer Kevin Holland, a one-time Bellator veteran who got a chance in the Octagon after defeating Will Santiago via decision at Dana White’s Contender Series in June. The bout takes place at Saturday night’s UFC 227 in Los Angeles, Calif.

Cutting weight to hit 185 pounds twice in one month “really sucks”, Santos said, and that’s why they tried to make the fight a 195-pound catchweight. Yet, he says the promotion didn’t approve the idea.

After flirting with the idea of fighting Gustafsson and being offered a main event slot against a former champion in “Shogun,” facing a UFC newcomer doesn’t really bother him.

”I love fighting, no matter who,” Santos said. “I don’t waste my time thinking about rankings. They give me fights and I take them. Ranked guys don’t want to fight me because they are ranked higher. Some guys are protected by the UFC, the ones they are trying to build. What am I going to do? I have to fight. I can’t wait. You won’t get any younger, time flies. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a UFC newcomer, if you don’t have a big name. I want to fight, make some money, add another win, and then we’ll see what comes.”

Sitting one knockout away from breaking Anderson Silva’s record for most the knockouts in the middleweight division, Santos expects a finish Saturday.

”I saw that he likes to showboat, keeps his hands down,” Santos said. “That’s everything I saw. I don’t like watching old fights. He likes to taunt, so maybe he tries to mess with my head, but that won’t work with me. I always fight the same way, and I’m going there to try to knock him out.”

After proving once again to be a company man and stepping up when needed, Santos hopes to earn a fight with a top-15 middleweight next. He doesn’t care about the rankings, it’s true, but being in bigger fights gives him that extra motivation.

“I will beat this guy and say a few things in there,” Santos said. “I have to beat this guy first, though.”

Without spoiling what he has planned for his post-fight interview, the Brazilian striker revealed that one of the things he will ask for is a spot at the UFC 230 card at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 3.

“Some guys don’t accept to fight someone ranked lower than them because if they lose they switch positions, and would never do what I do,” Santos said. “These guys don’t take fights and the UFC don’t push them. That’s why I don’t pay attention to this shit.

“I won’t say a name, I’ll basically say this. They are doing a card in November, in New York, with a bunch of guys from my division. I will offer to fight there in case some of them has a problem. That happens all the time.”

“Marreta” will volunteer to replace someone at UFC 230, but rules out cutting weight again as a backup plan.

“I have to fight,” Santos said. “If someone has a real problem, I’ll do it. But I won’t make 185 again if I’m not fighting.”

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