After 0-2 stretch in UFC, middleweight looks to regroup
From the moment a professional mixed martial arts career is conceived in fighters’ minds, immediately they set out to develop their skill set. While striking can become sharper and a ground game dangerous, it is the intangible aspects that often make the difference between moderate success and championship status.
Elements such as heart and determination remain on constant display, but a fighter’s killer instinct is something that can be fierce in one outing and invisible in the next.
For MMA veteran Jorge Santiago, rediscovering his killer instinct will be the key for him to break out of his current slump and return to his winning ways. After dropping two consecutive bouts during his return to the UFC, Santiago was released from the organization.
While Santiago appeared to be a lesser version of the fighter who garnered international attention in Japan, behind the scenes matters were far worse. Battles both emotional and physical were being waged as he attempted to deal with the dissolution of his marriage at the same time he was failing to meet expectations in the cage.
It was the perfect storm of circumstances for Santiago, but with those issues now behind him, and a fresh start on the table, the fires have been reignited. Santiago faces Leonardo Pecanha on March 2 in the main event of Titan Fighting Championships 21, and he spoke to HeavyMMA about his rise, fall and return to happiness.
“I was very happy to return to the UFC, super excited, but sometimes things happen in your life and you can’t control the timing of when they take place,” Santiago said. “I was successful in Japan, and it reached a point where I was trying to defend my title – but there was no one to fight. I could have kept fighting (Kazuo) Misaki, but when the UFC called me to come back I was very happy. But the time period when I came back to the UFC, things were really messed up in my personal life.
“I really thought I would do great – but in reality I couldn’t perform the way I wanted to. I lost both of my fights returning to the UFC, but I know within myself that I can beat both of those guys. I just didn’t do it. Now I don’t have those problems in my life anymore. Things are different for me. I’m back to having fun when I train, and all my skills are coming back to where they should be. That is why I’m taking this fight on March 2. I just want to go out there and finish fights like I used to. I can come back from this nightmare I’ve been going through and perform the way I like to.
“The killer instinct is coming back most definitely 100 percent. We used to have a saying in Brazil: ‘The frog can jump when it needs to.’ It usually takes something really hard to make you move, and I think I had to go through everything to get to this point. Now I feel as if I’m fighting for my life. It’s time to get that instinct back and finish my opponents.”
With a reinvigorated approach to his career and a thriving camp in Boca Raton, Fla., one of the founding members of the “Blackzilians” is looking to get back to his dominant ways. Standing directly in his path is fellow Brazilian Pecanha, a submission savvy fighter with a penchant for mixing it up for better or worse. Santiago doesn’t care which avenue Pecanha decides to take because he plans on ending the fight wherever it takes place.
“We match up very well,” Santiago said. “He is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and I’ve seen a few of his fights. He likes to come out and brawl – and let’s see how long he wants to stand, because I’m going to be swinging hard. I know he’s going to try and shoot in to take me down but if the fight goes to the ground I feel right at home. I’m coming out, going after him and trying to finish the fight.
“Knocking people out and finishing fights is what I need to do. I’m taking things one fight at a time, and I just want to go out there and have fun. I’m really excited for this fight. I’m looking to bring back the same Jorge Santiago fans saw fight in Japan – the fighter who is exciting to watch and someone people can expect to finish a fight.”