Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos, aged 36, consistently evaluates himself objectively as a contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight division. He considers himself a work in progress. Dos Santos, a former champion of Jungle Fight, is looking to rack up his 11th win in his 13th appearance. The much-anticipated bout against Rinat Fakhretdinov is scheduled as part of the UFC Fight Night 231 undercard and will be hosted at the Ibirapuera Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Dos Santos continues his late-career evolution under the tenacious mentorship of his long-time coach, Cristiano Marcello, at the respected CM System camp.
Preparing for the showdown, Dos Santos remarks, “We always find ways to evolve, improving upon whatever is lacking and further strengthening what we do well. Being on a team that always measures our performance and finds ways to help us get even better is the difference maker in having a successful career.” Dos Santos is well aware that Fakhretdinov is no minor hurdle to overcome. Being a representative of the American Top Team, Fakhretdinov boasts 20 consecutive victories, including 16 finishes, following his sole professional failure in 2013. His record also includes a noteworthy victory inside the Octagon at UFC on ESPN 48, where he defeated Kevin Lee.
Dos Santos acknowledges the intensity of the upcoming fight, commenting, “He’s a great opponent. In our weight class, there are no easy matchups. Rinat is very determined and aggressive. I’m glad to be facing another tough and complete athlete. It motivates me to train even harder. The better the opponent, the more disciplined I am in training. We always train in every area, come up with the best possible strategy and look to give great performances in the cage. We also strive to make things exciting for the fans of the sport.” Dos Santos harnesses the momentum from his back-to-back victories, heading into this particular fight. His latest performance was on June 3, when he won a split decision over Abubakar Nurmagomedov at their three-round clash at UFC on ESPN 46.
Excited about fighting in his home country for the first time in over three years, Dos Santos says, “Fighting in Brazil is different. In Brazil, we feel and we draw energy from the fans. Everyone in attendance reacts and celebrates each action and strike. There’s no other fanbase in the world like that. They’re really engaged. Fighting is in the blood of the Brazilian people. I can hardly wait to fight again. To be back there still doing the thing I most love, which is fighting, is something that’s beyond incredible.”