Money issues, politics and surgery: Anderson dos Santos details ‘very difficult’ year ahead of UFC Vegas 15

    This yeawr has been burdensome for billions of people around the world, and it’s no different for UFC bantamweight Anderson dos Santos.

    “Berinja” signed with Dana White’s company in 2018 after a 26-fight career around Brazil and United States, but dropped a pair of decisions to Nad Narimani and Andre Ewell in the octagon. When he was about to fly to Abu Dhabi for a fight with Jack Shore in July, dos Santos was stopped from entering the chartered flight in Sao Paulo after testing positive for COVID-19.

    His year was already hard enough before that, though, when he suffered a pectoral tear while training in California and had to undergo surgery. The pandemic started when dos Santos was about to return to training, and the positive test prevented him from competing earlier on Fight Island.

    “The year was very difficult for me because my last fight was a year and a half ago,” said dos Santos, who didn’t experience any symptoms of the novel coronavirus but had to quarantine for 15 days in Sao Paulo, locked away from his wife and 5-year-old daughter.

    Sidelined for so long and unable to make money in other ways, “Berinja” and his family had to adapt. The UFC fighter made ends meet by teaching martial arts in a jiu-jitsu gym in Sao Paulo and teaching private classes to a dozen of students. When restrictions imposed by the government forced gyms to close its doors for months, he was left with no pay.

    Dos Santos attended a protest in late April, trying to convince the local government to allow gyms to open again. That didn’t work, and “Berinja” ended up contracting the virus months later. The Sao Paulo native is still struggling as only two of 12 students agreed to resume their private classes, with the others fearing for a possible contamination or simply unable to afford to pay a fee during pandemic times.

    The UFC fighter saw his income drop to zero for three months in a row before he began to make 30 percent of what he used to make before the health crisis. His wife works as a physical therapist and pilates instructor, and she lost 80 percent of her income during the pandemic, too.

    “I still had some money I had saved from my last fight, which I was saving to buy my family a house, but we had to use it when the pandemic started,” said dos Santos, who thanks Brazilian MMA promotion SFT for paying his monthly salary even though there were no events for him to work as a color commentator. “Thank God now I can fight again, win, and then ask for another fight as soon as possible.”

    Disappointed with politics during those troubled months in his hometown, “Berinja” decided to try his luck and run for a seat at the city council in Sao Paulo. He wanted to do more for sports as a politician, but ended up pulling the plug on that career before it even started.

    “I gave up on the last day, the day I was going to shoot photos and the commercial,” dos Santos said. “Since I didn’t know anything about politics — I still don’t, only a little —, I joined a party and started attending meetings and understanding how it worked. In those three months of meetings, I realized I wouldn’t be able to do both well. I like to do things well done so I would have to dedicate, and I would never quit fighting for politics.”

    The 35-year-old fighter promises he will “think about that” again when he retires from MMA “in eight years.” For now, his focus is on a 135-pound fight with Martin Day, which goes down in the preliminary portion of UFC Vegas 15 on Nov. 28.

    “Berinja” knows both fighters are under pressure after going 0-2 under the UFC banner, but he refuses to let it affect him.

    “You’ll never watch me put on a boring fight just to win,” said dos Santos, who scored 16 of his 20 professional wins by stoppage. “I’ll end up catching him with a guillotine, or a rear-naked choke — I have good back takes — or an anaconda choke when he tries to get back up. That’s how I picture this fight ending. It he resists the pressure and doesn’t tap, he’ll lose in the end no matter what.

    “But my hands are sharp and the fight starts on the feet. Maybe my hand will land and he will feel it and I’ll go for the knockout. That might happen, but, in my head, I want to take him down and use my jiu-jitsu to finish him and make all bantamweights fear my ground game.”

    This article was originally published on

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