Santiago Ponzinibbio waited more than two years to return to the Octagon, but his first appearance since November 2018 was over in less than five minutes.
The 34-year-old Argentina native suffered a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Jingliang Li in a featured welterweight bout at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi on Saturday, ending a seven-bout winning streak that began in December 2015. “Gente Boa” had a chance to re-establish himself as one of the 170-pound division’s top contenders with a victory after an a lengthy absence that included a serious bacterial infection, a broken toe and a battle with COVID-19. Now, he has to rebuild.
Ponzinibbio issued a heartfelt statement via Instagram on the heels of his loss to Li.
I have no words to describe the sadness I feel,” he wrote. “I wanted to return giving a victory, you deserve it for so much support. I worked very hard for this event, a whole year of preparation but this sport is like that, there is a part out of control, a blow that comes in and everything ends. I want to thank all the messages and the love of always! All my life I forged it on adversity, this time it will be no different. I'm coming back stronger than ever.”
Ponzinibbio owns a 27-4 career mark that includes notable victories against the likes of Neil Magny, Mike Perry, Gunnar Nelson, Court McGee and Sean Strickland.