It’s been nearly a month since former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Thiago Santos announced his move to the PFL. The 38-year-old longtime ATT talent exited his contract with the world’s largest MMA promotion with a streak that saw him pick up just one victory in five bouts since losing his bid for gold against Jon Jones in 2019.
While his exit from the UFC wasn’t all that surprising given that recent track record, Santos spoke about his other reasons for making the jump from the Octagon to his new promotional home in a recent interview with MMA Fighting.
“It was also the right moment, at this stage of my career, to try something different,” Santos said. “I won’t be a hypocrite, of course that I want the $1 million [prize]. Of course I want money to make my nest egg. I don’t want to wait until it’s too late [in my career], like almost retiring, to fight one last fight and try a lot of money. No, I really want to fight. I know I still can do great things in MMA, I still have a few more years of fighting. The moment had to be now. New opportunities, better purse. Everything made me opt for the change.”
‘Marreta,’ who joined the UFC in 2013 as a middleweight with an 8-1 record, fought at 185 pounds with the promotion until 2018. He moved to light heavyweight in September of that year. In his first three fights at 205 pounds, Santos scored knockout wins over Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz. The Brazilian striker earned post-fight bonuses for each of those victories and quickly moved up the light heavyweight rankings. Santos was the No. 2 ranked fighter when he faced Jones for the UFC’s 205-pound crown.
Santos underwent surgery on both his knees after his loss to Jones. As a result, he was out of action for over a year. When he returned in November 2020, Glover Teixeira submitted him in the third round of their matchup.
Following his loss to Teixeira, Santos went 1-3. Jamahal Hill knocked out Santos in the fourth round in his most recent bout. The contest earned the combatants “Fight of the Night” honors.
When he left the UFC, Santos, who had one fight left on his deal with the promotion, was the No. 9 ranked fighter in the official UFC rankings.
Santos did not discuss his career UFC earnings, but said that if he wins the 2023 PFL Playoffs, “I haven’t done the math, but I’m sure that would be more than I made all these years in the UFC.”
Santos fought 24 times for the UFC. His career record with the promotion was 14-10. The 38-year-old has a career record of 22-11.