In 2018 Santiago Ponzinibbio surged up the UFC welterweight rankings to seventh spot after he KO’d Neil Magny in front of his hometown fans at UFC Fight Night Buenos Aires. That win followed up victories over Mike Perry and Gunnar Nelson and extended Gente Boa’s winning streak to seven fights.
Then disaster struck. Blood and bone infections, and adverse affects from treatment to overcome them, sidelined Ponzinibbio for two years and almost forced him to quit MMA. However, after months of rehab and therapy Ponzinibbio was able to get healthy and, eventually, back into fighting shape.
Now he is scheduled to take on Li Jingliang at UFC Fight Island 7: Holloway vs. Kattar on January 16. Ponznibbio is relieved to be back in action, but incensed to be returning without his previously earned spot in the official UFC rankings.
He spoke to Sherdog about the situation.
From my upcoming conversation with #UFC welterweight talent @SPonzinibbioMMA. As he explains asking to be @Leon_edwardsmma replacement opponent, and why he calls the promotions rankings "bull sh*t." Full interview on @sherdogdotcom soon. #UFCFightIsland7 pic.twitter.com/s50uGsAgDm— Jason Burgos (@CheapSeatsChat) January 8, 2021
Ponzinibbio said he was confused why he was removed from the rankings, while other fighters who have had near identical periods of inactivity were able to remain. In his example Poniznibbio mentioned Brian Ortega, who fought Max Holloway on December 8, 2018 and then took over a two-year hiatus before returning against Chan Sung Jung in October.
“They removed me [from the rankings]. Brian Ortega fought three weeks after me and he’s still in the rankings and he was in the main event,” argued Ponzinibbio (ht Adam Martin, bjpenn.com). “I asked, why is he in the rankings despite the inactivity? Why does he get a main event and me a lower ranked opponent?”
“Listen, I love Brian Ortega. I think he deserves it. He showed to the world he deserves it. He beat a guy and hopefully he becomes a champion. I don’t have anything against him,” continued Ponznibbio. “It’s just our situation’s very similar. For this reason, I repeat, I think the rankings are bullsh*t. I go inside my cage and do my work. That’s it. I represent my culture and my people from Argentina and from Latin American and I put a show inside the cage, man.”
Next weekend Ponzinibbio will look to improve on his 27-3 record and bounce himself back up the rankings. His opponent Li is 17-6 and coming off a loss to Magny at March’s UFC 248. Before that loss ‘The Leech’ was on a three fight winning streak with victories over Elizeu Zaleski, David Zawada and Daich Abe.
In addition to being headlined by Max Holloway vs. Calvin Kattar, UFC Fight Island 7 is expected to feature Omari Akhmedov vs. Tom Breese, Jaoquin Buckley vs. Alessio Di Chirico and Carlos Condit vs. Matt Brown.