There was a lot of excitement in the MMA world in 2011 when former Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago signed with the UFC.
At the time, Santiago had won 11 out of his last 12 fights, and just completed a ‘Fight of the Year’ performance to close out 2010 against Kazuo Misaki.
So it was with a lot of surprise that Santiago’s second term in the UFC ended almost as emphatically has his first run did some five years earlier.
Santiago was defeated by both Brian Stann and Demian Maia, and just like that the Brazilian fighter was released from the UFC.
For the first time since his exit from the promotion, Santiago is opening up about what exactly went wrong when he returned to the UFC, and it had nothing to do with not being physically prepared for the challenges of facing the competition in the top organization in the world.
“You’re right, I haven’t fought the same way I fought before,” Santiago answered when speaking to MMAWeekly Radio. “I was working trying to get over it the last fight against Demian (Maia) but I couldn’t. This time I’m more relaxed, I just need to go in there and swing for the fences and try to finish fights.”
There’s a lot more to this story than Santiago just simply not fighting up to his potential.
It’s been quiet until now, but Santiago was going through a very rough 2011, which consisted of a painful divorce that haunted him for much of the year, and obviously affected his mental make up heading into both of his fights in the UFC. Never one to make excuses, Santiago kept everything bottled up and tried to push through as best he could, but it just didn’t work.
“You can say everything, but nothing’s going to explain. I was going through personal issues in my life, I had a rough year last year, it was a nightmare,” said Santiago. “That’s no excuse, you have to work and you have to have the results and that’s it. I couldn’t handle it. I was having a lot of personal issues and I couldn’t perform the way I expect.
“I was getting a divorce and just so many things. I’m just trying to relax now, and not pay attention to things around and hopefully just perform like I used to do.”
A fighter can be accused of not being physically prepared for a fight. Not training hard enough, not working with the right coaches or sparring partners.
For Jorge Santiago it came down to his mental preparation, which for him was the fact that he just couldn’t get focused on fighting with so much going on in his personal life. Still, a fighter has to fight to survive and that’s what he did, but he was a ghost of himself during both trips in the UFC.
“Nobody knows the kinds of things you’re dealing with. My first fight I had a fractured rib against Brian Stann plus all the personal issues, and camps and getting a divorce, and trials, a lot of (expletive) going on with my life. I was just trying to get through the work and get it done, and hopefully it works, but I couldn’t handle it. I can’t lie that was my problem last year,” Santiago admitted.
The fog lifted however as 2011 came to a close and now with his team behind him, Santiago is moving on.
The former Sengoku champion will return at Titan Fighting 21 where he will compete in the main event against Leonardo Pecanha on March 2 in Kansas City.
Santiago is out to prove that he’s still the same fighter that battled against Kazuo Misaki in 2010, that captured the Sengoku gold, and belongs among the elite middleweights in MMA.
“I want to put up the same performance I used to do in Japan. I’m going to prove the ‘Sandman’ is back. I can’t talk too much, now I have to go in there and prove the best performance ever,” Santiago said.
“I’m going to go in there and finish fights. No game plan anymore, my game plan now is finish the fight, that’s it.”