Many eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Ronaldo Souza — the No. 3-ranked Middleweight in the world — took a fight against Tim Boetsch — who is barely hanging on to the No. 14 spot in the rankings — at UFC 208 on Feb. 11, 2017, in Brooklyn, New York.
It was especially puzzling because "Jacare" is close to a shot at the 185-pound title. And accepting a bout against a hard-hitting foe who is ranked outside the Top 10 is a high-risk, low-reward situation for the submission wizard. But, as Souza recently told MMA Fighting, he simply wanted to stay active with every other contender in the division either hurt, booked or too scared to fight him.
"At least I have an opponent and a fight," Souza said. "Fighters that stayed inactive for a long time don't do well in the end, so I wanted to stay active. My intention was to fight a top contender in the division, but everyone is hurt."
Luke Rockhold pulled out if his fight against Souza in Nov. 2016, which was set to headline UFC Fight Night 101 in Melbourne, Australia, because of an injury. "Jacare," though, isn’t buying Rockhold's injury ... not even for a second.
"Rockhold is afraid," the Brazilian said. "He said he’s hurt, but I see him training all the time on social media, and then he said he wanted to face Jon Jones in a grappling match in January. That makes no sense. He’s not hurt. If he’s injured, he can’t grapple Jon Jones. That’s impossible."
Souza couldn’t hide his disappointment at being unable to get his rematch against Rockhold -- who defeated him back in 2011 under the Strikeforce banner -- saying that he would’ve never imagine the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA)-trained standout going as far as to fake an injury to avoid fighting him.
"It bothers me because I wanted to fight in November. Injuries are part of the sport, it happens, but I never thought Rockhold would fake an injury. At first I thought he was hurt, but now I see he just chickened out. It’s clear he’s not injured."
That said, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace has a tough task ahead of him, as Boetsch's ranking doesn’t do justice to the type of power he carries in his hands, which means one well-placed punch on the kisser could prove disastrous for Souza. It's a reality that’s not lost on Souza. Furthermore, "Jacare" says he is done chasing current UFC 185-pound champion Michael Bisping, who he dubbed a "pussy."
"I don’t even want to hear about Bisping anymore, because he’s a p*ssy," he added. "He wants to fight anyone but the top contenders in the Middleweight division. I won’t run after a p*ssy like Bisping. Everybody knows he became champion by accident. That was an accident. And now he doesn't wanna fight a top contender. He wants to hatch the belt."
UFC 208 is expected to be headlined by the first-ever women’s Featherweight bout between Holly Holm and Germaine de Randamie. To see who else is fighting at the upcoming pay-per-view (PPV) event click here.