UFC welterweight contender Santiago Ponzinibbio is confident of beating Kamaru Usman, but is willing to face a top-five opponent first in order to get his shot.
Ponzinibbio was initially supposed to face Usman at UFC Fight Night 129 in May last year, but had to pull out through injury. Usman would go on to defeat Demian Maia on short notice before getting past Rafael dos Anjos to earn his own title shot.
“The Nigerian Nightmare” then shocked the world when he completely dominated longtime welterweight king Tyron Woodley at UFC 235 earlier this month to become the new welterweight champion.
An opportunity at Usman
Despite Usman’s performance, Ponzinibbio, currently ranked #8 in the welterweight rankings and coming off a knockout win over Neil Magny in November, still believes he can finish him if he gets the opportunity.
Realistically though, he won’t be getting a title shot next, which is why he is ready to face the former champion in Woodley first.
“I know I am ready to finish Kamaru Usman. I have the level to do that but I need the opportunity,” Ponzinibbio told The Body Lock’s Michael Fiedel.
“Maybe I need to fight a top-five guy and I think Tyron Woodley is a good option. It’s a good fight, good matchup. I know I can finish anyone in this division. I believe in my power, my work, I work very hard for a long time. I’m ready and excited to be back.”
“This division, I think, is the most exciting division. A lot of good guys, a lot of high-level guys but I’m ready to make history. I think Tyron Woodley is a really exciting fight.”
The Argentine also hopes a potential fight with Woodley is a five-round, main event.
“It’s better if it’s a main event. I don’t have a problem with five rounds, never. My conditioning is good, I train very, very hard. I prepare for everything, I don’t care if it’s main event, co-main event, if I need to say, then main event is better.”
Ready to fight teammates
Meanwhile, Ponzinibbio’s American Top Team teammate in Colby Covington looks set to get the next shot at Usman, while another teammate in Jorge Masvidal has also entered the title picture following his devastating knockout of Darren Till last week.
If either of them are standing in Ponzinibbio’s way for the title, fans can expect them to fight each other.
“No. For sure, if it’s for the title shot, we’ll fight man. It’s a team but it’s a dream to each guy. It’s good for the gym too, you know? A lot of good contenders and prospects. Before the title, we fight, we know that.”