Now that his friend Anderson Silva no longer carries the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) middleweight title around his waist -- thanks to Chris Weidman -- Ronaldo Souza can finally set his sights on the division title.
"Jacare" had been adamant in the past that he would never fight his fellow countryman -- and vice versa -- but with "All American" now sitting atop the 185-pound throne and with a four-fight win streak in his back pocket, Souza's dream of becoming a UFC champ is a bit closer to becoming a reality.
First, he must defeat the always-dangerous Yushin Okami in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 28, which goes down this Wednesday (Sept. 4, 2013) on FOX Sports 1 from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Something "Jacare" is confident he will accomplish given the fact that he's a much-improved fighter with the hometown fans by his side.
Souza explains to Bleacher Report:
"It is a huge responsibility to fight in front of the Brazilian fans. At the same time, it is good because I'm not going to be fighting alone, I'll be fighting with the entire crowd behind me, and they are going to make things more difficult for Okami. Going into this fight I feel better, stronger and that my game has improved. I'm feeling way better than I did going into my last fight and way more prepared. I'm ready to go out there and show how much my game as evolved and how much of a better fighter I am than the last time people saw me."
With a win, Souza says he should jump up a few spots in the title hunt race:
"I believe a victory in this match will get me closer to the title, but we'll see where it goes. I know that once I pass him, I'm definitely going to be closer."
Fighting off the raucous Brazilian crowd will be nothing new to "Thunder," having already dealt with the hostility from the locals during his middleweight title fight against the aforementioned Silva at UFC 134 back in 2011.
A fight Okami lost via second-round technical knockout (TKO).
As for Souza's title hopes, a win over Yushin could give him the edge to become the next contender. However, he may have to put those plans on ice, yet again, should Anderson reclaim the title from Weidman when the two rematch at UFC 168 on Dec. 28, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Unless, of course, Souza and Silva follow in the footsteps of two of their fellow countrymen.