UFC veterans Thiago Santos and Yoel Romero are set to collide at the PFL vs. Bellator pay-per-view on Feb. 24 in Saudi Arabia, and Santos is happy to be back after an unexpected doping suspension prematurely ended his debut season with PFL.
Santos lost a decision to Rob Wilkinson this past April in his promotional debut, however both athletes ended up testing positive for banned substances. Wilkinson popped positive for an elevated testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio, while Santos’ drug-screening results came back positive for clomiphene, a selective estrogen receptor modulator.
“It was a mistake I made for trusting the doctor,” Santos said on MMA Fighting’s Trocação Franca podcast. “I’ve never taken anything [illegal]. I even have the USADA jacket [for 50 clean tests]. I spoke with the doctor, I wanted something that could help me because I’m 40 and whatnot, and he prescribed me a supplement. He said it wouldn’t give me any problem with USADA and I trusted him. I didn’t check anything, this guy is a doctor. I was very surprised when I [failed the drug test].”
Santos was given a six-month suspension, and said he’s learned a lesson now.
“USADA doesn’t want to know,” Santos said. “What you put in your body is your responsibility, and sadly, that’s how it is, but they’ve given me the shortest suspension possible, six months. It was a mistake I made for trusting other people, but it is what it is. My conscience is clear.”
“It wasn’t testosterone or any of that,” he added. “I didn’t use anything to cheat. My opponent, however, was caught with testosterone. He talked a bunch of crap about me, he’s younger than me, and was caught with testosterone.”
The Brazilian now returns hunting for his first win in the PFL cage against Romero, a former training partner who went 2-2 in Bellator following a memorable 9-4 UFC run. In his most recent appearance, Romero came up short in his light heavyweight title bout against Vadim Nemkov in June.
“Romero is a legend of the sport and I’m really happy with this fight,” Santos said. “We have a good relationship. We trained together many years ago. I’ve helped him in many camps since I joined American Top Team, also went to his gym to train with him, but that was six, seven years ago, and never imagined that one day I’d fight him. Here we are now, and I’m very happy with this opportunity.”
Santos said he never “sparred going 100 percent” with Romero in the gym and feels that training smart is one of the reasons why “Soldier of God” continues to compete at the highest level months away from turning 47. As for the matchup, “Marreta” said “there’s no mystery” as to what either man is going to attempt inside the cage.
“He’s a wrestler that doesn’t use his wrestling that much,” Santos said. “He likes to strike sometimes, but he’s still an Olympic-level wrestler and we can’t rule that out. It’s a clash of styles. Each one of us will try to do what we do best. I’m a striker and everybody knows I like to keep it on the feet, I won’t try to wrestle with an Olympic-level wrestler. We obviously train everything, he trains striking and I train wrestling, but we’ll look to do what’s best for us. There’s no mystery here.”