Santiago Ponzinibbio hit a pivotal level of his profession this summer time – one he wanted badly.
The UFC welterweight handed rising prospect Miguel Baeza his first skilled defeat, outputting him in a “Fight of the Year” contender on the principle card of UFC Fight Night 189 in June.
It was the primary win for Ponzinibbio (28-4 MMA, 10-3 UFC) since returning to competitors after a life-threatening sickness that saved him out of the octagon for 3 years.
“It was a beautiful fight and it was a fight where, most importantly, I proved I’m back,” Ponzinibbio informed MMA Junkie in Spanish. “I proved I’m able to battle with the very best on the planet.
“This kid (Baeza) might not be ranked, but I think he has the level of a top 10 and he’s a very good athlete. He’s big physically. He’s technical and he was coming in with that undefeated confidence. There are so many qualities. I took the fight as a challenge for myself and to test myself. I proved to myself and to everybody else that I’m back and I’m here to fight the best.”
Prior to the prolonged layoff as a consequence of sickness, the Argentine fighter was on a seven-fight profitable streak and thought of a high title contender at 170 kilos. The inactivity noticed him out of the rankings and his return to competitors didn’t paint a promising image.
Ponzinibbio resumed his profession in January and suffered a first-round knockout loss to Li Jingliang. It was a troublesome setback for the 34-year-old.
Ponzinibbio knew for his second battle again towards Baeza, he badly wanted a win – not as a result of his UFC job was on the road, however as a result of he nonetheless aspired to select up the place he left off and be a title contender as soon as once more.
“I didn’t have my back against the wall because I know the company wouldn’t have let me go,” Ponzinibbio mentioned. “My fights are at all times thrilling. I’ve by no means missed weight. I by no means had points with USADA. I placed on good fights, win or lose. But I’m not right here to simply battle – I’m right here to be a world champion.
“I used to be so near the title. We had talked about being one battle away from the belt. I used to be on a seven-fight profitable streak. I used to be coming off that primary occasion battle in Argentina, however then the sickness got here, the inactivity, the return, which I wasn’t one hundred pc. I misplaced fast the place I wasn’t dominated technically. It was one hit and it was over.
“Then the rumors saying I’m not the same and this and that. So I needed to prove to myself and everybody else. I know I have the potential to be champion, but I need to show it. There’s no use just knowing it and showing it in the gym. I need to show it in the octagon. I needed that win to show I’m back.”
Ponzinibbio is decided to get his palms on UFC gold. The American Top Team product hopes to clock in two extra fights this yr if the schedule permits. Ponzinibbio desires a return in October and he’s open to compete with any of the highest canine at welterweight.
“We’ll see what happens next, but there are many names out there,” Ponzinibbio mentioned. “There’s Michael Chiesa, who recently lost, but he’s a top athlete and that loss doesn’t define him. There’s Vicente Luque – we can make a very exciting fight and he’s a guy that likes to exchange like me. That would be a great fight. There’s Stephen Thompson; Gilbert Burns, who I would love to fight someday; Leon Edwards – just many names out there. We’ll see what the UFC is thinking. I’m prepared to return soon.”