Santiago Ponzinibbio details terrifying health complications that doctors feared could end his career

By Chris Taylor - December 26, 2020

Santiago Ponzinibbio will make his long awaited return to the Octagon on January 16 for a welterweight bout with Li Jingliang.

Santiago Ponzinibbio

Ponzinibbio (27-3 MMA) was once one of the top-10 welterweights in the world after scoring a knockout victory over Neil Magny in November 2018. Unfortunately, ‘Gente Boa’ has not competed since then due to health issues, including a positive test for COVID-19.

In a recent interview with MMAFighting, Santiago Ponzinibbio detailed the terrifying health scare that had doctors fearing his career would be over.

For me it’s very tough,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “The people don’t know the truth. The people don’t really know the truth. When everything happened, it’s a little weird and I don’t talk too much. It was very complicated.

“It started with an infection inside my body and then it goes to my blood. I’ve got two different kinds of bacterial infections. It was [an] epidemic [type of bacteria] and the other was pseudomonas, [a bacteria frequently found in water and certain plant seeds]. This is a more complicated bacteria. I had two in my body. I spent eight days in the hospital.”

Following his initial hospital stay, Ponzinibbio was discharged. However, when began to lose weight and then developed a 103-degree fever he decided to return to his doctors.

“It was three days to finish the treatment, and then I started with a fever,” Ponzinibbio explained. “I have two doctors, my general doctor and my [infectious disease] doctor. I go to him, I have a fever, that’s normal? He told me not at all, go to the hospital right now. I go to the hospital and they make a couple tests.

“I stayed 10 days more in the hospital. They couldn’t bring my fever down. They switched my medications. They gave me a lot of different medication. I went back home, still with the PICC line [peripherally inserted central catheter] and more medication. For a couple, maybe two months more.”

Santiago Ponzinibbio, Robbie Lawler

After being granted a clean bill of health, Santiago Ponzinibbio was allowed to return to training. He took a trip to Las Vegas and began working out at the promotions Performance Institute. It was there that the Argentinian fighter realized that he was not gaining his strength back and feeling more pain then usual.

“I go to Vegas and I go to [physical therapy] – a lot of PT, twice a day, for five weeks,” Ponzinibbio said. “We don’t see nothing is getting better. Heather [Linden] at the UFC PI told me, ‘This is not normal at all.’ I was still using very strong anti-inflammatory. It’s almost November, I started in May and I’m still using this anti-inflammatory [medicine].

“We go to get an MRI. A couple of days after that, they called me into a separate room and said, ‘Listen, the MRI said you have an infection in the bone, it’s very dangerous and maybe you can’t fight again.’ The doctor said that, you have an infection in your bone and they said this is very dangerous. Maybe you can’t fight again.”

After visiting a rheumatologis, Santiago Ponzinibbio began a new treatment which included several different antibiotics.

“After that, with the treatment, with the rheumatologist, a lot of different antibiotics, and my body started coming back. The PT started to make it work. Before that, my ligaments were very swollen. I lost all my muscle, that’s very crazy. After that, I started to improve.”

“They told me I might not be able to fight again in my life,” he said. “It started in 2019. I dreamed about fighting for the belt. The people in the UFC told me to go win one more fight and then I can go for the belt. I was so excited. A couple months after, I’m in the hospital and people didn’t understand what was happening to me.”

Santiago Ponzinibbi is 9-2 overall in the UFC and he holds notable wins over Magny, Mike Perry, and Gunnar Nelson, among others. The Argentinian is extremely heavy-handed, with 15 wins coming by way of knockout.


Santiago Ponzinibbio UFC