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Santiago Ponzinibbio's Ultimate Comeback: "The Dagger 2.0" Takes on Muslim Salikhov in UFC Denver, This Saturday

Santiago Ponzinibbio
Black Belt Mag

The contrasting emotions of victory and defeat in sports are profound, with victory's thrill being fleeting and defeat, agony lingering much longer. UFC Welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio, reflecting on this dichotomy, is preparing for his return to the Octagon this weekend in Denver, facing fellow welterweight veteran Muslim Salikhov. Ponzinibbio has spent over a year grappling with the agony of his last defeat, eager to replace it with the thrill of victory.

In his last fight at UFC 287 in Miami, Ponzinibbio faced Kevin Holland. After a competitive match, he was stopped in the third round, a decision he still finds frustrating. “I think I’m doing a good fight, I could win the fight, and then he catches me with that one punch,” Ponzinibbio recalls. Despite his frustrations, he remains determined to move past the loss and prove his capabilities once more.

Approaching his 38th birthday, Ponzinibbio’s career is at a critical juncture. A respected figure in the UFC’s welterweight division, he has notable victories over Sean Strickland, Gunnar Nelson, Mike Perry, and Neil Magny. Although he contemplates retirement, his passion for the sport and his belief in his abilities keep him motivated. “This is not about showing something to other people; it’s about showing something to myself,” he says, emphasizing his desire to compete at a high level.

While Ponzinibbio has established a role in the UFC’s Spanish broadcast team, his heart remains in the cage. Training at American Top Team, one of the most competitive gyms globally, he feels prepared and confident. “In training, it’s one of the most competitive gyms in the world; a lot of top guys. I feel great in my training every day,” he asserts.

Ponzinibbio’s upcoming fight against Salikhov marks a crucial test. Originally scheduled to meet in January 2021, their bout was postponed due to Salikhov’s COVID-19 diagnosis. Now, both fighters are at a stage where questions about their futures are more frequent. Salikhov, 40, also seeks to prove himself after a recent string of losses.

“He’s a good fighter — has a lot of experience, a great name,” Ponzinibbio acknowledges. Ready to deliver a standout performance, he believes this fight will showcase his improvements and reaffirm his position in the welterweight division.

Ponzinibbio’s journey has been marked by adversity, shaping him into a resilient fighter. “I’m a fighter for life; we keep moving forward,” he declares. Confident in his preparations, he promises to reveal a new and improved version of himself. “People are gonna see a different Santiago Ponzinibbio this fight because I fixed a lot of things so that I can perform the way I want to. I’m feeling great and people are gonna see ‘The Dagger 2.0.’”

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