In UFC heavyweight champion Jon Jones’ illustrious career, only one judge has seen one of his opponents as the winner. And that distinction goes to Thiago Santos.
It happened in July 2019 at UFC 239, where Santos took then-light heavyweight champ Jones to the brink – made him look human, even. After five grueling rounds, many observers believed Santos won that fight and one judge agreed, awarding him a score of 48-47. But the two other judges scored it the other way, 48-47 for Jones, allowing him to escape with the title.
Afterward, it was revealed that Santos tore his ACL, MCL, PCL, and meniscus in his left knee in the early going of the fight. That means he managed to beat Jones, according to one judge, essentially on one leg for most of the fight.
Almost four years later, Santos looks back on his gutsy performance with pride.
“I’m proud of myself about that fight,” Santos told MMA Junkie Radio. “This fight was very important, because I had a big injury. I overcame. I didn’t give up in that fight. I fought until the end. It was a great fight. I’m proud of this fight, for sure, against one of the best of all time.”
Jon Jones def. Thiago Santos at UFC 239: Best photos
Santos’ career might’ve turned out different had he managed to convince another judge that he was the worthy winner. After a 16-month layoff because of his knee injury, he returned and lost four of his next five bouts to finish his UFC contract.
Santos (22-11) wasn’t re-signed and is set to begin a new chapter in his career with the PFL next week. His promotional debut is set for April 1 at 2023 PFL 1 in Las Vegas where he’ll meet reigning light heavyweight champ Rob Wilkinson in his season opener. It’s a matchup that Santos is thankful for.
The way Santos sees it, everything happens for a reason – including his narrow loss to Jones.
“I’m proud of every fight, every moment of my career,” Santos said. “Everything is part of my journey. I’m very proud of myself.”
Thiago Santos fondly reflects on pushing Jon Jones to brink in 2019: ‘I’m proud of this fight’
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