Earlier this month, we learned that elite middleweight contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will be returning to the Octagon at UFC on Fox 24 on April 15. The Brazilian grappling specialist will do so against rising Australian contender Robert Whittaker, who recently rocketed into the upper echelon of the division with a dazzling knockout defeat of the dangerous Derek Brunson.
While this matchup is an undeniably exciting one, its announcement did catch some fans by surprise. Jacare, after all, is one of the very top contenders in the middleweight division. Though the next middleweight title shot will go to returning former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, Jacare could have easily opted to wait for his shot or, to rematch fellow contender Yoel Romero in an effort to lock down the number-one-contender spot. Instead, the Brazilian has chosen to keep a busy schedule, risking his hard-earned contender status against a ferocious young talent in Whittaker.
While Jacare’s choice to stay active may have surprised some fans, however, it didn’t surprise Whittaker himself. The Australian contender discussed this booking in a recent interview with BJPenn.com’s Tom Taylor.
“Not really,” Whittaker said when asked if he was surprised that Jacare took the fight. “I suppose I don’t ever really spend too much time speculating as to why others may do what they do. Jacare is a born fighter and this is what we do. We don’t get paid unless we fight. As far as title shots are concerned, there is so much movement in the division… who knows what will warrant one? Jacare is definitely deserving of a shot but by the same token, so is Romero. Both those guys deserve a shot irrespective of a rematch.”
Whittaker then touched on the challenges of a fight with Jacare, explaining that the Brazilian is far from a one-trick pony, as he backs up his legendary grappling skill with strong striking and fight-altering power.
“Jacare is not just a fantastic grappler, he is a very competent striker with crazy power,” he said. “I’m not going out there to try and just stop his takedowns, we are going to fight and the better guy on the night will win. Im pretty sure no one – not even his friends – like grappling Jacare.”
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This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/12/2017.