Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza has a list of accomplishments a mile long in both Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts, but one accolade that continues to elude him is a UFC championship belt. Shockingly enough, he’s never even gotten a title shot in the UFC, despite toiling away at the top of the middleweight division for five years.
Key fights keep derailing him. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015. Getting knocked out by Robert Whittaker in 2017. And most recently, another split decision loss to Kelvin Gastelum, who is now fighting for the interim 185 pound strap against Israel Adesanya on April 13th at UFC 236.
”Jacare” was a guest on the Ariel Helwani MMA show to discuss his rematch with Yoel Romero on April 27th, but much of the conversation was centered around his quest for a title shot. When Adesanya came up, Souza didn’t hesitate to express his disdain for the New Zealander’s title shot.
”I don’t know why the UFC put him to fight for the title,” Souza said. “He hasn’t done enough. Because he never fought against top fighters, you know? Okay, he beat Derek Brunson, but I’m a jiu jitsu fighter and I beat Derek Brunson twice. And the second time, when I kicked the Derek Brunson’s head, my eyes were closed. I did better than him twice, and in the second time my eyes were closed. Why the UFC put this guy to cut my line? I don’t know. But he doesn’t deserve to fight for the title. He don’t deserve, 100 percent. Anderson is out of the rank and out of shape. He doesn’t deserve it.”
But what’s done is done, and Souza is now determined to get his own shot at the belt with a win over Yoel Romero.
”I wanna sit and wait for my shot, for my chance,” he said. “If UFC doesn’t give me the chance, I’m going to open a jiu-jitsu school for me. I don’t have a problem with retiring. Right now my body is good, my hormone is great, everything is good. I don’t have a problem with this. I’d be retiring to my jiu-jitsu on top. So I have to win this fight and wait on the UFC.”
When Helwani asked him to confirm he’d retire if the UFC passed him over, “Jacare” said “Yes, 100 percent.”
”For me it’s normal, it’s a business. If they don’t like me.... If they don’t like me or don’t give me the chance, I’m here to be a champ. Working to be a champ. If they don’t give me a title shot or put other people to cut in my line, I’ll be in retirement.”
Souza could be sitting for a while. After Kelvin Gastelum and Israel Adesanya fight for the interim in April, the winner will fight Robert Whittaker, who is recovering from bowel surgery. That’d probably be in August at the earliest, and then it’d be another four to five months for the next challenger would get his shot.
”I can wait for my chance,” he said. “I don’t have a problem waiting. I’ve been waiting for many years. One more year is not too bad.”
Whether the UFC would be willing to consider “Jacare” Souza as #1 contender for that long is another question. With the middleweight division being so competitive and the promotion putting so much emphasis on fighters staying active, we have our doubts. It will have to be a pretty dominant win for Souza over Romero if he wants to remain in the conversation without fighting for an entire year.