Triple Take: How streaking Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos can enter UFC welterweight title mix
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos came away with a big win over the weekend, submitting Curtis Millender in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN+ 4. That brings Zaleski’s streak to seven in a row, all wins in the UFC, as he hasn’t suffered a loss since his promotional debut back in May 2015. So what’s he got to do to earn some respect and finally break through? MMA Junkie writers Fernanda Prates, Mike Bohn and Ben Fowlkes provide their opinions in this edition of “Triple Take.”
Fernanda Prates: He’s done his part; time for UFC to do theirs
If anyone had a road map or a specific idea of what it takes to make a person into a star, we’d be able to name more than three “American Idol” winners off the top of our heads. Not every UFC fighter, no matter how talented he or she is, will become a star. And we know that, in a sport geared toward entertainment, being a star can do wonders for a career.
But that’s the thing: there is a middle ground. You don’t have to be sitting on Ellen’s couch to be relevant enough for a fan to want to watch you. And that’s all the UFC needs to do with fighters like dos Santos.
UFC brass doesn’t need to throw all their money and effort into making him Conor McGregor. They need to make sure at least people know who he is, so that by the time he is a viable contender, people are not left scratching their heads as to who he is – and, in turn, feel compelled to scratch their pockets and purchase a pay-per-view.
I know what you’re going to say. “He needs to promote himself, too.” But it’s naive to discount the weight of personal promotion against the push of a machine like the UFC, as we’ve seen from the careers they were interested in sky-rocketing.
Some people, like Darren Till, will make it easier by how comfortable they are in front of cameras and mics. Some, like “Capoeira,” will make it a little harder. But that’s when you look at other angles to promote. If the best asset a fighter has is the way that he fights – and dos Santos has that in spades – then you make sure people see that.
Burying him on the prelims is pretty much making sure they don’t. The UFC started addressing that this past Saturday, when they put “Capoeira” in a co-main event. By the time he got there, though, he’d already plowed through six straight opponents, finished three of them and collected three bonuses in the process.
“Capoeira” thinks a title shot is close, and why wouldn’t it be? But here’s the predicament we often run into: Why would the UFC be interested in putting someone who the public barely knows in a title fight? But, then again, how is the public going to know them if the UFC kept them buried for so long? “Capoeira” did his part. Now, it’s the UFC’s puzzle to solve.
A title shot would be, obviously, in dos Santos’ best interest. But making sure they have as many viable, sellable contenders as possible would certainly be in the UFC’s.
Next page – Mike Bohn: Take advantage of the state of welterweight