After being cut by the UFC in 2006 after going 1-2 in the organization, Jorge Santiago (23-8) has gone on to win the one-night 2007 Strikeforce middleweight tournament, become the first Sengoku middleweight champion, and win 11 of his last 12 fights. But Santiago has unfinished business in the UFC, and he feels like the time is right to make his return.
“I have a lot more things to achieve in the UFC,” Santiago said. “I’m very excited [to come back]. [It’s] the best organization in the world.”
There was more than just wanting to return to the UFC that led Santiago to negotiate his release from Sengoku and vacate the middleweight title that he held.
“I fought with the same guy twice already you know. [Kazuo] Misaki, [who is] considered their top guy in Japan,” Santiago said. “It’s like I don’t want to fight with the same guy all of the time. I’ve been around in the top 10 middleweights in the world, number six for a long time, and I’m’ not [moving] up. I’m just waiting for, I don’t know what, for Sengoku [to] bring me more challenges, but all of [the other top 10 fighters] are in the UFC so that makes a lot of sense to me. I’m not getting any younger. [So] I decided to make this big step to come back to the United States and go after those guys.”
Santiago isn’t the same fighter that he was when he left the UFC, and he credits experience and hard work for helping him evolve into the fighter that he has become.
“I guess I was more younger. I couldn’t handle it. It was too much for me,” Santiago said about his time in the UFC. “If you ask me I can’t explain exactly what happened before, but I can tell you I’m a completely different fighter now. Hard work pays off.
Santiago will make his return to the UFC on May 28 at UFC 130, where he will face Brian Stann (10-3), who is coming off of a first round TKO win against Chris Leben (25-7). While he believes that having more experience than Stann is beneficial, Santiago says that he isn’t taking his opponent lightly.
“I just think I have more experience than him,” Santiago said. “I’m training as hard as I should. [I’m] training hard like I was fighting for the title. I’m pretty confident, but a fight is a fight, and you fight with 8oz gloves, and any mistake that you make you pay the price.”
Santiago has said that he expects Stann to come straight in looking for the finish during their fight. Knowing how dangerous Stann is on his feet, Santiago is confident in his ability, and isn’t worried that Stann will be successful.
“Since I left the UFC I’ve fought many high caliber strikers, so I don’t feel danger at all,” Santiago said. “I know he comes to bang. I’m pretty confident fighting on my feet and I’m pretty comfortable on the ground, so I will try to choose and see what is best for me during the fight. You never know what is going to happen.”
One thing Santiago says you can expect to happen is this fight is going to be explosive, and since his last fight against Misaki was ranked by Sherdog as their fight of the year for 2010, he has the record to back it up.
“I’m not scared of anybody,” Santiago said. “Everything somebody throws on me, I will throw it back. All of my fights are exciting fights. It’s going to be fireworks. It’s going to be fight of the night, I guarantee you guys.”
Jorge Santiago wanted to say thank you to all of his fans, his teammates, and God. You can follow him on Twitter (@SantiagoMMA).