Star Who Nearly Became UFC Champion Parts Way With Promotion

Jon Jones & Thiago Santos

Getty Jon Jones & Thiago Santos

Former UFC light heavyweight title challenger and several-time headliner Thiago Santos is no longer with the promotion as he recently signed a deal with the Professional Fighters League.

ESPN reported the news on September 8th, around a month after Santos suffered a fourth-round TKO loss to Jamahal Hill. All in all, “Marreta” is 1-5 in his last six trips to the Octagon, which includes a razor-thin split-decision championship defeat to then-205-pound king Jon Jones at UFC 239 in July 2019.

The bout was scored 47–48, 48–47 and 48–47 in favor of “Bones,” however many watching thought the Brazilian had done enough to hoist gold.

ESPN spoke with PFL president Ray Sefo about the promotion’s newest signing.

“We are very excited to bring in Thiago Santos to the PFL light heavyweight division,” Sefo said to the outlet. “He is known throughout the MMA world as a guy who delivers exciting fights, and I’m looking forward to seeing his elite knockout power up close.”

Santos had been on the UFC roster since 2013, amassing a promotional record of 14-10. He headlined seven UFC events and has a professional mixed martial arts record of 22-1, boasting 15 wins via KO/TKO.

Santos Had ‘Amicable’ Split With UFC, His Manager Said

ESPN spoke with Marreta’s manager Alex Davis, who shared that Santos and the UFC had a friendly split.

“It was an amicable separation with the UFC,” Davis said. “Thiago is very grateful for everything the UFC did for him, and he’s very grateful toward the PFL for signing with him. He’s looking forward to winning a million dollars.”

Santos won’t make his PFL debut until the 2023 season begins. He, along with other light heavyweight combatants, will compete in a tournament-style bracket for $1 million.

The finals for the 2022 PFL season will take place on November 25. And in Santos’ weight class, Omari Akhmedov and Rob Wilkinson will battle for the grand prize.

Santos Fought at 205 & 185 Pounds, Beat Several Notable Opponents

Santos made his first walk to the cage as a UFC athlete in August 2013 when he battled Cezar Ferreira at UFC 163. Marreta was a middleweight at the time and although he entered the Octagon as a promising 8-1 prospect, he was forced to submit to a guillotine choke within a minute of the opening round.

He returned around seven months later and earned his first promotional victory by stopping Ronny Markes via first-round TKO. He’d drop his next fight to Uriah Hall before going on a four-fight win streak.

Then, Santos lost back-to-back bouts to Gegard Mousasi and Eric Spicely before building another four-fight run. During that 8-2 stretch, the Brazilian beat the likes of Anthony Smith, Jack Hermansson, Nate Marquardt and Gerald Meerschaert.

In April 2018, Marreta’s four-fight wins streak was snapped when David Branch knocked him out. Santos would only compete at middleweight one more time before moving up to light heavyweight. He defeated Kevin Holland via unanimous decision and then left the weight class.

Santos was victorious in his first three 205-pound contests, taking out Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz, all by TKO. The win over Blachowicz in February 2019 was enough to earn him a title fight against Jones, which he lost via controversial split decision.

Santos would then lose his next two fights to Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic before bouncing back against Johnny Walker. And in his last two fights in the UFC, Santos was beaten by Magomed Ankalaev and most recently, Jamahal Hill.

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