Ronaldo Souza signed a contract with Strikeforce, which in his mind means he’s not going to spend time publicly calling out UFC opponents or complaining about the lack of promotion supporting the events.
He would, however, desperately like to fight more.
While much of the criticism these days of Strikeforce focuses on the lack of depth in its divisions, Souza -- who meets Derek Brunson on the main card of this weekend’s San Diego event -- says his only complaint is he’s yet to fight more than twice in one year since signing his contract.
The long layoffs between fights are a source of frustration for the Brazilian, who believes his inactivity keeps him out of consideration as a top-10 middleweight.
Even more importantly, however, is that he’s not getting paid during that time off.
“I work for Strikeforce, so I talk about Strikeforce,” Souza told ESPN.com. “I cannot talk about other events. I signed a paper and I’ve got to be a man and follow it.
“For sure I want to fight more often, though.”
Gilberto Faria, Souza’s manager, says he and his fighter understand the situation they’re facing. Under the broadcast deal that Strikeforce renewed with Showtime for the 2012 calendar year, there simply aren’t as many opportunities to fight.
Saturday’s event will mark the fifth show promoted by Strikeforce this year. At this point last year, there had been 12.
The fact he understands doesn’t make matters any easier on Souza, though, whose only income for himself, his wife and two young children comes from fighting.
“Imagine you fight twice a year,” Faria said. “You pay for training, rent, food, support your kids -- it’s not easy. If you only fight twice a year, you don’t make that much money, how can you survive? But if you have a second job, how can you be an athlete at this level?”
Making matters worse is that Souza (15-3) wants to go all out. He got used to competing regularly during a decorated career in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has a hard time ratcheting down intensity in the gym.
That mentality has at least made it easier for him to accept and mentally get up for fights against an opponent like Brunson (9-1), who although talented, is relatively unknown to the casual MMA fan.
“I like fighting anybody,” Souza said. “It doesn’t matter who the guy is or what his record is. I make sure I’m focused and ready to go in there and do my best.
“I know whoever it is, in this case Derek Brunson, has trained and is ready for this fight. So I have to be at my best because even though I might be a favorite, anything can happen.”
A win over Brunson on Saturday could elevate Souza into a title shot and a rematch against current champion Luke Rockhold.
Frustrated with the lack of contenders in the division, Rockhold (10-1) recently stated his interest in a rematch with Souza. The two met previously in September, where Rockhold claimed the title with a unanimous decision win.
Souza says he hasn’t dwelled on the first fight, but still believes he did enough to warrant the decision. Judges scored it 50-45, 48-47 and 48-47 in favor of Rockhold.
“He’s a tough guy. He wants to challenge himself and so do I,” Souza said. “I understand what he’s trying to say. He knows in the back of his head that even though he got the win, he had to hear some people weren’t happy with the result.
“I spent a lot of energy in the first round (during the first fight). I didn’t bring in the right strategy. I didn’t have a lot of information on him. Now, I have material to study. If I fight him again, I know what the result will be.”