Several changes were made to UFC Sao Paulo leading up to the card due to injuries, but things nearly got much, much worse.
Eventual main event winner Thiago Santos suffered a thigh injury eight days before the event, his coach Tata Duarte told MMAFighting.com.
Santos stopped sparring 11 days before the fight, but “Marreta” still injured himself while attempting a suplex in a training session. It was the same injury he suffered in a 2016 bout against Eric Spicely, which he lost by submission.
“He went down in pain,” Duarte said. “We stopped training and sent him to our physical therapist, Bernardo Moura, to check him out and start the treatment.
“Bernardo said that the ideal would be two weeks of recovery, but we only had one. We did physical therapy for three days and went to Sao Paulo on Sunday. The UFC sent their physical therapist, Bob, on Monday and we kept the treatment.”
Had Santos been forced off UFC Sao Paulo, it would have been crushing to the card, which had already suffered numerous other cancellations. Santos stepped up on a month’s notice for an injured Glover Teixeira against Jimi Manuwa. “Poster Boy” suffered a hamstring injury the day he arrived in Sao Paulo, and Eryk Anders replaced him six days before the card. Santos beat Anders by third-round TKO in the “Fight of the Night.”
Santos said he did physical therapy with the UFC physical therapist “all week.” He said he never planned on pulling out of the UFC Sao Paulo main event, but that his coaches did discuss it.
“I felt a horrible pain. The treatment was painful,” Santos told MMAFighting.com. “Thank God I didn’t need to cut much weight so I didn’t have to worry about training that hard, but we did physical therapy all week up until Saturday morning.”
Duarte said he was concerned when Anders replaced Manuwa, because Santos wasn’t able to prepare for the new opponent much due to his condition.
“[Santos] didn’t train much during fight week,” Duarte said. “We were afraid of that, being a five-round fight and not being able to train. We only did 20-minute training sessions, only using his hands and the right leg because the left leg was injured.
”When the opponent changed, we couldn’t work his takedown defense, nothing, and we were worried because we knew Anders would try to take him down. There were moments in the fight that ‘Marreta’ gave him the takedown to avoid forcing the injury, but thank God everything went right.”
After his win, Santos said he wants to stay at 205 pounds and fight Manuwa in December. In the meantime, he plans on working with his physical therapist some more to get back to full health.