UFC Q&A: ‘Jacare’ Souza discusses Vitor Belfort, Luke Rockhold, Anderson Silva

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Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (pictured) talks with GracieMag.com about his UFC future. Photo by Esther Lin.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, 33, has done well in Jiu-Jitsu, MMA and ADCC, but another step was needed to feel professionally fulfilled: to fight in the UFC.

Twice the absolute world champion and former holder of the Strikeforce middleweight title, Jacare arrives in the world’s largest MMA organization full of morale. On May 18, in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil, Souza faces the dangerous Costa Philippou, a winner of five straight fights.

Coincidentally (or not) on the same card is Luke Rockhold, who took the Strikeforce title from Jacare in 2011 and kept it until the end of the franchise. The Brazilian showed interest in Rockhold as his first UFC opponent, but the American instead will face Vitor Belfort in the main event.

Jacare last fought in January 2013, when he submitted Ed Herman with a kimura in the first round at Strikeforce event farewell

Happy to not have long layoffs between fights, as it happened in Strikeforce, Souza promises to lift the crowd on May 18. And the strategy to beating Philippou is already drawn, as he revealed to GracieMag.com: good old Jiu-Jitsu. Check out the exclusive interview below.

GRACIEMAG: How is your head with your UFC debut getting closer?

RONALDO JACARE: Always very good, very confident, good physically and mentally relaxed. I now feel totally ready for this new challenge in my career, and I think it will make a very good fight. I’m confident in winning and I feel 100-percent prepared. It is a new phase in my life and I’m facing a naturally, but with great professionalism.

Do you feel any pressure with fighting in Brazil?

I’m pulling it on the positive side and liking the idea of fighting in my country. It gives me a greater incentive because I know the responsibility to represent Brazil and it just motivates me in training, and encourages me to have more dedication. Overall I’m more concentrated, focused and very calm because I trust in my work, in my team, in my potential, and I will prove this May 18 for all Brazilians.

What was your reaction upon learning you would face Costa Philippou?

When I entered the UFC, I knew it would not be a breeze. I’m glad to have a fight with a guy who has five straight wins. It’s a good way to get to the top fast. I got to the UFC and was put in the top 10, ranking among the nine, and now they put me to fight with the top five in the division. This means that they are appreciating me, and I feel the need to show them that they are right. I also feel the need to show to those who do not believe in my work that they are wrong. I love those who doubt me! I am a fighter capable of breaking my arm for a win …

What is the strategy for this fight?

I’ll lay down … and will do anything to finish. If I don’t knock him down, he will get tired a lot. When he gets up, I put him down again. We can not speak otherwise. I’ll look for the ground game and he will try to fight standing. He will not want to take me down and I do not want to trade with him all the time. The game is this, the obvious.

And how is your Jiu-Jitsu for this fight?

For Jiu-Jitsu I’m working with Sylvio Behring and his team, with several renowned black belts. On Wednesdays I wear my kimono and come train. I’m emphasizing my wrestling training with Adrian Jaoude, greatly improving my takedowns … Everyone knows that I put it down, but now I’m trying to do this more technically, and with more tranquility. But Jiu-Jitsu was where it all began. My life as a fighter began with the gentle art and became a lifestyle for me. I am very happy to have the opportunity to always be a jiu-jiteiro!

Still thinking about a rematch with Luke Rockhold?

Were were supposed to have our rematch in Strikeforce, but didn’t. I do not know for what reason — actually, I know the reason, he was injured twice. This hampered our meeting …

How do you think the bout between Vitor Belfort and Rockhold will be?

I think Vitor will try to keep the fight standing, Rockhold also, perhaps seeking to overturn a bit with wrestling. Luke will want to take the fight to the end. He’s a volume guy, which grows as the rounds pass, and he kicks very well. But I think Vitor has better striking.

For you, what is the biggest difference between the UFC and Strikeforce?

Before I had to scream that wanted to fight. Now I’m motivated to know that I’m much more active. I think I was the only guy in Strikeforce to face an UFC athlete, Ed Herman, who had several good fights in the UFC. And I was lucky to finish it in the first round and be better than him in the fight standing and on the ground.

Is there any possibility of someday facing Anderson Silva, the current champion of the weight class?

I think this is something that I should not even comment on. We train together and we will not generate discomfort within the team. The fact is that anyone who wants to get to the top will have to go through me. I don’t know what Anderson’s feeling is with competing in the UFC right now, if in a moment he is retiring or not, but I wish all success to him before anything. I would say I’m always rooting for him and if he needs my help to fight with Chris Weidman, we are there!

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