Admittedly 2019 didn’t turn out to be the best of years for bantamweight Richie Santiago.
Following a loss to Miles Johns at Dana White’s Contender Series in June, Santiago spent the remainder of the year on the sidelines recovering from an injury suffered in the fight.
“Early last year I was looking to fight in the spring, but that didn’t happen, and that was disappointing, but I got the call up to the Contender Series,” Santiago told MMAWeekly.com. “I got a big opportunity there.
“I fought in June, lost a decision, ended up breaking my jaw, so I was out for a good two months. I pretty much spent the rest of 2019 just recovering and training.”
Having been fighting as a pro and amateur combined for over seven years, Santiago knows that sometimes injuries that require significant time to recover happen, so he was able to handle his time off better than many would.
“It can definitely be frustrating, especially since I only fought once last year, but I’ve been in this game a long time now, so I’ve come to learn that you’ve got to be patient and just take your time,” said Santiago.
“You can’t be stupid and get back in there before it’s healed. A broken jaw is a serious injury, so I had to take my time and wait until I could accept another fight.”
On Friday in Lincoln, Rhode Island, Santiago (7-2) will look to get back on track when he faces Giorgi Kudukhashvili (5-3) in a main card 135-pound bout at CES 60.
“He’s a good wrestler, and my background is wrestling, so I’m always excited to test my wrestling against a good wrestler,” Santiago said of Kudukhashvili. “I’ve seen his game, and he’s got a lot of holes in his game.
“He’s a powerful guy and tries to muscle everything. I’m more of a finesse guy. I have better submissions than him. I think he’s going to try to take me down, I think I’ll finish him on the ground; if he tries to stand with me, same thing, I think I’m the better striker. I think I can win in any area of the game.”
For Santiago, the goal is to rebound on January 24 and then work his way back to a UFC opportunity in any form he can get.
“It’s good to get a fight in January so you can set the pace early and go from there,” said Santiago. “My goal in 2020; last year I was in the Contender Series, so my goal is to make it back or maybe just get a call straight to the UFC.
“I’m taking it fight by fight. I just have got to keep winning, and I know eventually they’ll call me back and I’ll be able to get that opportunity again.”