Shortly after Santiago Ponzinibbio sent Neil Magny face-first to the canvas with a fourth-round knockout in the UFC Fight Night 140 headliner in his home country, “Gente Boa” made his next intentions clear.
“This is a dream come true. For a long time I’ve been trying to bring UFC to Argentina. And now, headline the event at home, with the crowd by my side, it was incredible. After 11 months away, I tried to give the fans the best show possible and got a knockout,” Ponzinibbio said. “Neil was a tough opponent, like I knew he would be. I know I have what it takes to be the next champion. I hope to fight for the belt next and I’m ready for it.”
Ponzinibbio has won seven fights in a row, which is currently the second-longest active winning streak in the welterweight division. Despite that run of success, reigning 170-pound king Tyron Woodley doesn’t necessarily see the La Plata, Argentina, native as the next logical No. 1 contender.
“Take a number bruh,” Woodley responded from his analyst’s chair on FS1. “Everyone wants a crack at the king.”
Woodley claimed the crown with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler in July 2016 and has since successfully defended the belt on four different occasions. Most recently, he submitted Darren Till in the second round at UFC 228 on Sept. 8. “The Chosen One” had some pointed advice for Ponzinibbio if he wants to get a crack at welterweight gold down the road.
“The thing is, I don’t necessarily want to see him face anybody,” Woodley said. “If you’re in the Top 10, you’re always one victory away from fighting for the title shot. Somebody can get injured, a last-minute replacement. You’re always there in position.
“Just keep fighting, keep winning and you’re going to get a chance to get across the Octagon and see what everybody else thought they wanted, and that’s catching the fade.”
At Saturday’s post-fight press conference in Buenos Aires, Ponzinibbio was informed of Woodley’s response. The Argentinian fighter believes Woodley has a specific reason for wanting to avoid him.
“In regards to Woodley, I understand fully why he says that, he wants to hold on to his title as long as possible,” Ponzinibbio said though a translator. “He knows that if he does fight me, I’m going to knock him out, I’m going to take it. So he wants to keep extending his reign for as long as he can and that’s why he keeps saying that I still have a long way to go.”
If Woodley isn’t next, Ponzinibbio will be an interested observer when Kamaru Usman and Rafael dos Anjos square off in the main event of “The Ultimate Fighter 28” finale on Nov. 30. He would be more than willing to face the winner of that contest if given the opportunity.
“It’s not math,” Ponzinibbio said. “It’s not just the numbers; the division shifts a lot. But it would be a great fight, and I’m really looking forward to one of those.”
Regardless of what the future holds, Ponzinibbio expects a highly-ranked opponent next, even if that foe isn’t wearing championship gold.
“I think I deserve a Top 5 fight, and I think after tonight’s victory, I might climb to that position,” Ponzinibbio said. “I’m looking for a title shot all the way. Maybe I’ll need one more fight, but that’s my objective going forward.”