Jorge Santiago is on the cusp of greatness. After a 2 year reign as the middleweight champ in the now defunct Sengoku, Jorge Santiago has moved on to the UFC and will be facing Brian Stann on May 28th at UFC 130. We caught up with the Sengoku King the day before it was announced that he and a slew of his teammates left American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. All seemed well at the time…But then again 72 hours ago Strikeforce was the UFC’s number one competitor and the biggest problem in Japan was finding new sponsors for Sengoku and Dream. Time, you heartless bitch.
Hey Jorge, how are ya doing? I’m good, I’m good. I’m pretty excited to come back to the United States and the UFC ya know? I’m getting set for May 28th.
When you were filming Miami Hustle, did you think it would be this big of a hit? Not really, it’s pretty funny, we started doing it for fun now everyone is trying to see what’s next and what we are gonna do with the Miami Hustle. It’s pretty exciting, its just something we did about our lives outside the gym. So many people don’t know about the fighters outside the gym. It’s nice, it will help the fans connect to the fighters ya know?
Did you know Genghis Con was this good? Yeah he did a highlight for JZ before his Strikeforce fight. We were like ya know what? We had a meeting and said we would just bring him in here and we just go around and film and see how it is. It turned out so nice and it was on the internet and everyone was talking good so we were just like: Miami Hustle lets do it.
When is JZ going to fight next? I know he’s been saying it’s been hard for him to get a fight. You know, there have been lots of rumors about putting him against KJ Noons, I just hope that could happen. His last fight is just something you can’t explain, how you could lose that. He’s a fighter that everyone wants to watch but can’t get a fight. Maybe April 9th, maybe not. We’ll see what happens.
When you were weighing the decision between Strikeforce and UFC, was JZ’s lack of fights in the back of your mind? Since he is a teammate and that complaint has been voiced by other fighters about Strikeforce. No, no, no. I just thought for my career right now, fighting in the UFC is the best move right now. They are very solid and there is no financial problem fighting in Japan, but fighting maybe twice a year and all the top guys are in that weight division are in the UFC. So that was my choice to go to UFC.
So you have been paid by Sengoku? They don’t owe you anything? Not at all, I have nothing to complain about with Sengoku, they paid me on time. I’ve heard things about other organizations but Sengoku always treated me very kind. Always good for me, I cant complain.
What’s your take on the decline of MMA in Japan? I don’t know. I think it’s just a product of the economy. Things are rough here and it effects Japan. An organization loses credibility with the fans and it just goes down all at once. You have the UFC that becomes so popular with the reality show on TV. It all happens. Hopefully another show can come around in Japan.
You were scheduled to fight Vitor Belfort at Affliction 3. Then Barnett dropped out and Vitor said he would fight Fedor. Obviously that never happened, but did you know who your opponent would have been if Vitor moved up? No, not really. I know he wanted to fight the big name, but now that we are both in the UFC we can fight each other.
You said that in 13-18 months, you will be on top of the UFC middleweight division, can you lay out the plan on how you are going to get there? Every show can get changed, I just want to do my best on May 28th and see what happens. See what Joe Silva and Dana White says. This is my first fight since being back in the UFC, I just want to focus on Brian Stann ya know?
Do you want a rematch with Chris Leban? Oh yeah. When you re a fighter you always want to fight the guy that you know, you lost to. Right now it doesn’t make sense, since Brian Stann just knocked him out, so beating Brian Stann should knock both of them off my list.
What is it like to train with Hector Lombard It’s OK, we don’t say too much, he likes to train hard. It’s alright, all fighters train in their own way. He does his thing I do mine. I don’t get involved.
What’s a better representation of Miami: CSI or Dexter? I think…CSI: Miami, yeah (laughs) Miami Hustle is the best one.
Were you surprised Bigfoot beat Fedor? No, not really. Back in the day everyone was saying he was the guy to beat Fedor, he was fighting in Cage Rage, we trained you know? The whole game plan, we expected it, he is a strong guy with good stand up.
Who wins between Overeem and Werdum? I don’t know, I think Overeem will pull off a good win.
Do you have Bigfoot winning the HWGP? Of course, of course I trained with him, big boy very strong and he moves fast for his weight. I would say he is the next heavyweight champion.
Can you explain your dislike of Chael Sonnen and why you want to fight him? Cocky man, he’s doing what he likes to do he’s selling talking shit and messing with a guys mind. It’s OK, he talk too much and he doesn’t have any ground so he shouldn’t talk too much.
If you were booked in a match with him , how would you deal with the smack talk mentally? Would he get to you? Never, never. He can spend his time talking shit and not being in the gym. I will be in the gym, let him talk the shit.
What do you know about the Brian Stann? He has been growing. Every fight he gets better. He’s a good fighter. Tough guy, hits hard. Good striker, great athlete and a good mind, mindset. I’m just going to go in there and get it done.
If you beat Brian Stann do you get a shot at the belt? No I don’t think so. I think if I beat Brian Stann I will be a top fighter. I don’t know.
Why are Japanese fighters having a hard time transitioning to the cage in the US? I don’t know, I think a lot of fighter who never fought in the United States, I have before, I know what it’s like being in front of a US card, Strikeforce, Europe, Japan. I don’t know what happened but I always consider guys coming from Japan able to perform the same way. Maybe not, I don’t see that being a problem with me.
You won the Strikeforce Middleweight GP back in the day, you held the Sengoku title forever…If you win the UFC Middleweight title are you one of the top 185’rs ever? Oh of course, I’m making history you know? Having 3 belts is a pretty damn good thing. No one has done that.
If Misaki signed with the UFC, would you fight him one more time? Wow, OK one more time (laughs)
Do you consider yourself underrated? Of course, always. This is how it’s always been in my like. I’m top ranked, number 6 on website rankings at middleweight, I just don’t have too much credibility because I’m fighting in Japan and the fans cant see my fights, so…I’m considering myself the underdog in the UFC. I know who I am and I know what I can do, so I’m just going to go out and prove it you know?
Are you the underdog or the favorite against Brian Stann? I think I am the underdog. You ask a hundred guys, maybe two would say I’m the favorite. So (laughs)
Anything you want to say to the MiddleEasy readers? Follow me on Twitter @SantiagoMMA so you guys can see whats up with my camp and be ready for fireworks May 28th.