UFC

'Jacare' Souza rips Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping ahead of UFC 208

May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Ronaldo Souza (red, top) throws punches down on Vitor Belfort (blue) during UFC Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Ronaldo Souza (red, top) throws punches down on Vitor Belfort (blue) during UFC Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

When the UFC announced that Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza would be returning to action on Feb. 11 to meet Tim Boetsch in Brooklyn, the matchup was met with a lot of confused curiosity.

While Boetsch is a fearsome knockout artist coming off two straight finishes in the middleweight division, "Jacare" is arguably one fight away from a title shot and he's currently ranked No. 3 in the world at 185 pounds.

Add to that, "Jacare" was originally scheduled to meet Luke Rockhold last November in Australia prior to the former middleweight champion suffering a knee injury that forced him out of their bout.

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As much as the fight with Boetsch may not make sense on paper, "Jacare" appreciates his willingness to step up to accept a tough matchup when he believes many of the so called best fighters in the division are ducking him at every turn.

"I wanted to keep myself active. I was looking to fight Luke Rockhold but it seems like he got hurt and now I keep seeing him on social media training and doing things so now I think he's running. So I'm happy that Tim Boetsch accepted the fight and it's going to keep me ready and active and fighting so I'm pretty stoked that he took the fight," Souza told FOX Sports. "I'm good to go."

When Rockhold dropped out of the bout with "Jacare", he expected to be sidelined until at least April while rehabilitating his injured knee. "Jacare" would never kick a guy when he's down so he was sympathetic to Rockhold's plight until he saw photos on social media that showed him training.

It also didn't help matters much when Rockhold was on Twitter asking for a grappling match against former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones.

"Well at first, I felt kind of sad for him because he got hurt and couldn't make the fight. I put myself in his shoes and I felt bad about it. But then after a while, watching him training and then especially when I saw he challenged Jon Jones for a grappling match, which we all know if you're hurt you can't do grappling, and he wants to fight him, it kind of changed my mind and what I think about him," Souza said.

"Everything crossed my mind now that he's running away from me and he's afraid to fight me."

In addition to Rockhold getting under his skin recently, "Jacare" is also sick and tired of hearing middleweight champion Michael Bisping's name in the headlines when it concerns everything except him defending the title against a legitmate No. 1 contender.

Bisping defeated Rockhold last June to win the belt and then went onto defend it in a grudge match against Dan Henderson, who promptly retired after the fight as he approached his 47th birthday this year.

Since that time, Bisping has been sidelined with promotional commitments to the movie "xXx: The Return of Xander Cage" where he landed a co-starring role as well as recent knee surgery that put him out of action until at least May.

Of course, Bisping has also been in pursuit of a few different big money fights including a potential matchup with welterweight champion Tyron Woodley as well as Georges St-Pierre, who has been teasing his return for more than a year.

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None of that impresses "Jacare", who believes Bisping is turning the middleweight title into the laughing stock of the UFC as he continues to avoid the top competition in the division so he can hold onto his belt for a little while longer.

"Fighting the top guys for sure, that's what I want. That's what I always want but a fight against (Michael) Bisping -- Bisping's a disaster," Souza said. "He doesn't want to fight contenders. He doesn't want to fight.

"He wants to fight for money. He doesn't respect the fans. He doesn't respect the fighters. He only wants to fight for money. So for me, he's a disaster for this division."

It's clear Bisping and Rockhold have landed directly on Souza's hit list, but he holds Boetsch in high regard for his willingness to take the chance to fight him at UFC 208 this weekend. In many ways, Boetsch has nothing to lose and everything to gain by fighting "Jacare" and that's not lost on the Brazilian as he looks to continue his climb up the rankings in 2017.

"I have maximum respect for him. Not only for him taking the opportunity but also because I know he's a very dangerous guy. He has very dangerous hands. So it's not going to be a fight just to have fun. It's going to be a battle," Souza said about Boetsch.

"My goal is always to fight the best guys in my division. I always want to fight the best in my division but I cannot stay one year without a fight. If you look at those guys who stay one year without a fight, when they come back, most of the guys have trouble in their fights. I don't want that to happen to me so I want to stay active and fight as much as I can."