If Santiago Ponzinibbio had his way, it would be him who would be facing Rafael dos Anjos Saturday at UFC Rochester instead of Kevin Lee. Ponzinibbio made no secret of this, as he lobbied for the dos Anjos fight quite publicly on social media as well on every interview following his victory over Neil Magny at UFC Fight Night 140 last November. But what the public may not be aware of is that dos Anjos wanted this fight as well. In fact, he specifically asked the UFC brass to make the fight happen. So if dos Anjos wanted the fight and Ponzinibbio wanted the fight, what went wrong?
“I asked Sean Shelby for [Santiago Ponzinibbio], I wanted that fight. Here’s the thing because he refused a fight with Darren Till in London and Darren Till was ranked No. 3 at the time and I was ranked No. 5 at the time, they gave Ponzinibbio a higher ranked guy,” dos Anjos told MMA New’s Damon Martin. “And he refused and now he wants to fight the top five guys but he told the UFC he would fight anybody. Now he’s desperate.
“He wants to fight me so bad and I want to fight him, too, but the UFC doesn’t want to make that happen because refused the fight with Till,” dos Anjos explained. “In retaliation, the UFC doesn’t want to give him anybody ranked higher than him. That’s the truth. I asked for that fight as well, but it didn’t happen.”
Stephen Thompson, who was also ranked within the top five earlier this year prior to getting knocked out by Anthony Pettis, also claimed that Ponzinibbio turned down a fight against him earlier this year. If that is the case, then Ponzinibbio’s alleged rejection of the Darren Till fight may have been the final straw for the UFC brass, leading to retaliatory booking that still has Ponzinibbio in pursuit for an opponent.
Which fight would you have rather seen at UFC Rochester: Rafael dos Anjos vs. Kevin Lee or Rafael dos Anjos vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio?