Just a few years ago it may have been easy to write off Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. Losses in five of seven bouts heading into late 2009 seemed like the death knell in a long career.
Still, Santos would not give up and instead reinvented himself by first dominating Daniel Zarate to close out the year and then by moving down in weight and knocking out one of the world’s most feared welterweight strikers in Marius Zaromskis in 2010.
Santos had been reborn, and in return for his efforts, Strikeforce has given him a headlining 170-pound title shot against Nick Diaz on Jan. 29 in San Jose, Calif.
During preparations for his fight with Diaz, Santos took time out his schedule to speak to MMAWeekly.com about where his career has come, his title shot, and what lays ahead for a man experiencing a personal renaissance.
MMAWeekly: First off, Evangelista, you’ve been through many highs and lows in your career. How would you compare this past year to previous ones?
Evangelista Santos: After 15 years of searching for my ideal weight, I have finally found a home in the welterweight division. I fought 155 pounds at 18 years old then I ballooned up to 205 pounds. Now I’ve found a home that is comfortable for the first time in my career. I spent 42 fights looking for my ideal weight; all of that experience has made me a better fighter.
MMAWeekly: How important has it been to you to be able to share success with your wife, current Strikeforce women’s 145-pound champion Cris “Cyborg” Santos in the same promotion at the same time?
Evangelista Santos: It’s really a coincidence for us to be in the same promotion. I just focus on being a champion and so does she, wherever we fight. Different promotion, same promotion, doesn’t matter. We just train to be champions, every day.
MMAWeekly: Your next bout is scheduled to be against Nick Diaz for the Strikeforce welterweight title. What were your first thoughts when you heard this fight had been signed?
Evangelista Santos: I train every day hoping for a fight, my opponent never matters. When I found out I was fighting Nick, I just adopted the strategy for this style of fight. I didn’t care that my opponent is Nick Diaz.
MMAWeekly: How do you intend to keep Diaz standing to capitalize on your striking and avoid his excellent ground game?
Evangelista Santos: Nobody has really seen my ground game. I’m solid in Greco-Roman and I have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’m not worried about keeping it standing. I want to showcase my BJJ. If I’m underestimated on the ground, I’m okay with that. (I’m) very confident if it goes to the ground; I will be okay.
MMAWeekly: Having fought for so long, how important is it to you at this point in your career to win a championship in Strikeforce?
Evangelista Santos: The championship is the biggest part of any athlete’s career; this is no different. I want this very bad.
MMAWeekly: Should you be successful against Diaz, who would you like to face in 2011?
Evangelista Santos: Once I take the belt, I want to fight Gegard Mousasi and Melvin Manhoff in any weight class.
MMAWeekly: Thank you for your time, Evangelista. Is there anything you would like to say to the fans in conclusion?
Evangelista Santos: (I want to say) thank you to my wonderful wife, Cris; thank God for this opportunity; all of my trainers and sponsors: Chute box, Hostility Clothing, 5 Star clothing, Lean EFX Supplements, Full Tilt Poker, and Epic Sports Representation.