Following a stunning knockout win over Gunnar Nelson earlier this year, Santiago Ponzinibbio was anxious to get his hands on another top 10 opponent so he could take one more step towards title contention in the UFC.
When he got the call that the promotion wanted him to face Mike Perry — a hard swinging knockout artist who still isn’t ranked in the UFC — Ponzinibbio didn’t take it as a slap in the face or an affront to his goal to become champion one day.
Instead, Ponzinibbio just accepted the fight and realized that there’s no set path for what it takes to compete for a title in the UFC. So rather than complain or feel like he’s getting disrespected, Ponzinibbio instead wants to put on a show and remind everyone why he’s one of the most lethal strikers on the entire UFC roster, especially when looking at the welterweight division.
“I’m very confident for this fight. I had my last fight, gave me five victories in a row. It was an important moment for me. Then I trained for three months for this fight so I’m very excited for this fight,” Ponzinibbio said when speaking to MMAWeekly. “For me, this guy Mike Perry for me, it doesn’t matter. Anybody I face is going to get my best.
“I have five wins in a row. I’ve beaten very good guys. I’ve finished three of those fights by knockout in the very first round. My last opponent was top 10 in the world. I am ready for anybody in this division. They tell me to fight, I fight. This is a very good division. I’m ready for everything.”
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) July 16, 2017
Perry may not have a number next to his name that says he’s a ranked fighter but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous.
Through his first five fights in the UFC, Perry has earned four wins — all by knockout — including two that earned him ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses from the UFC.
That’s all well and good, but Ponzinibbio knows that his striking acumen combined with raw knockout power still make him the bigger threat when he steps into the Octagon with Perry on Saturday night.
“He has knockout power. I have knockout power. I’ve got very good kicks. I’m more polished,” Ponzinibbio said. “I feel like I’m better at everything.”
As far as what comes next with a win, Ponzinibbio knows deep down inside that he’s ready for title contention in the UFC because defeating Perry would be his sixth consecutive victory in a row in arguably the toughest division in the promotion.
That being said, Ponzinibbio isn’t going to ask for a title shot or feel like he’s going to leap frog the other fighters in front of him in the rankings, but they should be forewarned that he’s coming for the belt even if he has to storm through each and every one of them.
“I think I am ready for a title shot but I’m not eligible yet because my opponent is not that highly ranked. Last time they want me to fight the No. 8 ranked fighter in the world and now they want me to fight this guy. It doesn’t matter,” Ponzinibbio said.
“I’m ready to be the next champion in this division.”