Former UFC title challenger Taila Santos breaks silence on unexpected promotion exit: ‘I wasn’t very happy’

Taila Santos is on the verge of making her PFL debut, which is something most didn’t see coming just a few months back.

The former UFC title challenger unexpectedly exited late last year as one of the bigger names and top contenders in the women’s flyweight division. Neither the promotion nor Santos (19-3) gave much of an explanation regarding her surprise exit until now.

Ahead of 2024 PFL 1, which marks her first fight since departing from the UFC, Santos gave her side of the story and explained why she is no longer in the UFC.

“Yeah, I was in the UFC, but I wasn’t very happy,” Santos told MMA Junkie in Portuguese. “Everything started when I fought for the belt against Valentina (Shevchenko). I clearly won that fight, and it was one of the first tough fights Valentina had ever had in her career. No other fighter had done what I did against her.

“I was able to take her down to the ground and keep her there, while also blocking her attacks on the feet. So many people wanted to see the rematch, and the fans were asking for it. I believe I deserved the rematch, the opportunity, but it didn’t happen.”

Santos lost by split decision to Valentina Shevchenko in a UFC women’s flyweight championship bout in June 2022. It was a very competitive fight, and arguably Shevchenko’s toughest title defense at that time. Many thought the Brazilian had done enough to defeat the then-champion.

Not getting the rematch against Shevchenko didn’t sit well with Santos, but there was more than that.

“There were also some uncomfortable aspects around dates and the calendar,” Santos said. “I would fight once, and then there would be no dates, and I would have to wait, and there were just so many delays. There wasn’t a calendar. It was a lot of waiting after each fight, and I wasn’t happy. So I just chose to fight out my contract and not renew.”

Santos takes on Ilara Joanne (11-8) for her PFL debut at Boeing Center in San Antonio this Thursday. It’s part of the first round of fights of the 2024 women’s flyweight season.

The 30-year-old is excited to compete for the women’s flyweight title and the $1 million prize. She’s happy with her decision to transition from UFC to PFL.

“This is super cool,” Santos said. “Like I said, I was aware of PFL before, and they’re growing every day. It’s very cool, and they’re leveling up very well, it’s big.  I’m very happy to have received this contract and to be part of a great organization that’s growing each event. For sure, it’s going to keep growing every day.”

For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for PFL 2024, Week 1.

Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie