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‘It’s time for that bald guy to start betting on me’ - Leo Santos wants better UFC competition

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Leonardo Santos would like a step-up in competition should he beat Grant Dawson at UFC Vegas 22.

UFC 204: Santos v Martins
Leonardo Santos is set to face Grant Dawson at UFC Vegas 22
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Brazilian veteran Leonardo Santos is ready to get back into the Octagon. After dealing with a mild case of COVID-19, the TUF Brazil season 2 champion feels better than ever to showcase his skills at UFC Vegas 22.

Paired up against Grant Dawson, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt expects to put on another impressive performance and remain undefeated in the promotion. In fact, despite a minor case of COVID-19, the 41-year-old explains he had a perfect camp ahead of his March 20 fight.

“It was hard (to come back and train).” Santos told Combate. “My COVID-19 symptoms lasted about 15 days. Then I took the test and it came back negative. I passed it quite easily. I had some headaches, some fever, and then I felt like I was normal again. But I remained indoors in order not to spread it. I was locked in a room banging my head against the wall. When the training camp started getting harder, then I could really feel the struggle. It took me about 20 days to get back to normal. If that’s what is like for us, athletes, I can only imagine how a regular person would react to it. It’s scary. Everything is great now. I had a full camp. Everything was perfect.”

As for the fight itself, Santos expects a challenging ground battle against Dawson. Knowing Grant is also a grappler, Leonardo is more than happy to scramble for a submission, given he is a four-time BJJ World Cup champion, with nine of his 18 MMA wins coming by that method.

“He’s a tought kid, isn’t he? He got to the UFC by the Contender Series and he has scored four straight wins already. He’s going his own way. He’s good on the ground, so I think it’ll be a nice battle. The plan is to take him to the ground and submit him. Since he likes the ground so much, we’ll try to step into his world, but we’ll see. We’ll feel how the fight goes and we’ll make the decisions as they come.”

Even though Leonardo is a veteran at 41 years of age, the Brazilian still feels fresh and hopes that a win over Dawson could lead to better competition in the future. Undefeated in the Octagon, with sevens wins and one draw, the Brazilian believes it is time for the company to start paying more attention to him.

“I think they should start betting on me. They’ve been betting a lot on the wrong players. I’ve been showing them, but they don’t want to see it. Everytime they match me up with somebody, be it Kevin Lee or Efrain Escudero and so on. If you look at my record, there’s no easy fight there. All top fighters. They’ve blossomed later on, but they couldn’t get past me. So I think it’s time for that bald guy to start betting on me.”

In his last outing, Santos (18-3-1) picked up a unanimous decision over Roman Bogatov, in July 2020. The win put the 41-year-old on six-fight winning streak, with victories over name such as Kevin Lee, Stevie Ray and Anthony Rocco Martin, among others.

Now, Santos is expected to meet Dawson at UFC Vegas 22, on March 20, at the UFC Apex, in Las Vegas. The card is scheduled to be headlined by a middleweight bout between contenders Derek Brunson and Kevin Holland.