Santiago Ponzinibbio still chasing the title despite setbacks


Santiago Ponzinibbio thinks he is just getting started.

The welterweight contender is by no means giving up on his dream of becoming the UFC champion, even after suffering a setback at UFC 269 in December. Ponzinibbio (28-5 MMA, 10-4 UFC) failed in a split decision against Geoff Neal at the event in Las Vegas.

The Argentinian entered the fight for the Fighter of the Year victory over then undefeated prospect Miguel Baeza, and his plans to maintain his momentum were derailed.

“I didn’t get the result I was hoping for,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Junkie in Spanish. “It was a close fight. I could have won it. In fact, it was a split decision. I leave with a bitter taste because I know I could have won the fight, but that’s how it goes.

“Every fight is different and it depends on how you are feeling that day and many other factors. I don’t want to take anything away from Geoff Neal. I give him his props because he’s a tough opponent. I knew he was going to get strong because he took his time with the issues he was having. So I knew he was going to show up because he had a lot at stake. He was very prepared and fought well. I still think I have the resources to beat him, but it wasn’t my night. I am now focused on 2022.

2021 has been an important year for Ponzinibbio. It marked his return to competition after battling a life-threatening infection that nearly ended his fighting career.

Ponzinibbio’s health issues brought him to a halt in November 2018, and he was only able to resume in January 2021. Prior to his return to the Octagon, he was on a seven-game winning streak that included two Performance of the Night and two main events. slits.

The 35-year-old went 1-2 in 2021, beating Baeza and losing to Li Jingliang and Neal. But although he did not get the results he hoped for, Ponzinibbio can take away the positives.

“I didn’t get the results that I wanted and were used to,” said Ponzinibbio. “I haven’t lost since 2015. So for me, it’s a bitter taste that obviously generates frustration. But at the same time, there wasn’t a single athlete who outshone me where you’re going, “Look, this guy is just on another level.” No.

“With Li, I found myself in the perfect place and we were just starting to fight. I was logging in and he pulled it off and it was over. It doesn’t mean anything, it was just a hit. And against Neal, I could have won that and come close. We’re talking about the best in the world at 170 pounds. There was no one who walked through me and showed that I was not level. It’s part of the sport.

“Again, a bitter taste, I wasn’t used to this. But if you put everything on a balance and look at everything that happened – keeping in mind the conditions I was in – for me to do three fights, to be able to train regularly and to keep evolving. , that was a positive result. I am not a conformist. I didn’t get the results I wanted, I’m pissed off. So I’m not compliant, but realistically I went over a year without a fight and they told me I would never fight again, and here I am – three fights against the best in the world.

Ponzinibbio said he is feeling good physically and sees 2021 as a year to pick up the pace of competition. He looks forward to 2022 and is considering a return in March against anyone in the UFC rankings. Ponzinibbio’s top priority is to stay active so he can return to the 170-pound title race.

“Nothing changes – it doesn’t change anything,” Ponzinibbio said. “Like I said, I could have fought a little better and even then it was a close fight. I know Geoff is a tough fight. The objective does not change, the objective remains the world title. I didn’t get the result I wanted, but it wasn’t a bad fight either.

“I’m looking forward to 2022 and I’m starting to win again. I know I can do it, so nothing changes.

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