A Japanese proverb once said, "fall down seven times, get up eight."
But, in the case of former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight Jorge Santiago (23-10)—it's fall down two times, get up three.
After being released from the UFC on two separate occasions, Santiago hopes to return to the bright lights at some point in the near future.
In a recent interview, Santiago discussed with Bleacher Report his goal of one day making it back to the premier stage of mixed martial arts.
"Making it back to the top is a goal I am working towards every single day. I train harder and harder so that I can get back to fighting in the UFC on a regular basis," said Santiago. "This really is my dream and I won't stop until I reach it."
"I've been through this before in my life. I fought in the UFC and I got cut back in 2006. Everybody thought I was done. They didn't think I would come back but I did. I proved them all wrong. I became a top middleweight in the world. And, I'll do it again," promised Santiago. "I don't care what people think."
It was Santiago's two consecutive defeats that caused UFC president Dana White to pull the trigger on releasing the Brazilian native for a second time.
However, "The Sandman" wasn't exactly fed an opponent on a silver platter as he was thrown in with the upper echelon of the UFC's middleweight division right away.
In his first fight back, Santiago fell short to Brian Stann at UFC 130 followed by a decision loss to Demian Maia at UFC 136.
Despite his stiff competition, Santiago made no excuses and took responsibility of both losses.
"I was coming from Japan, where I was one of the top fighters in the world. I never expected to walk into the UFC and be given an easy fight," stated Santiago. "I came to the UFC to fight with the best of the best, so that's what I did."
"I've really fought top contenders my entire life. But, when I finally came back to the UFC I didn't perform the way I wanted to. I never ask for an easy opponent and I never will. My next fight is my comeback fight and I want to impress with my performance," stated Santiago. "If you want to be the best, you really have to fight the best guys or you'll never be considered one."
Santiago will take one step at a time on his journey back to the UFC and that will begin with Leonardo Pecanha (14-7) when the two meet at Titan Fighting 21 on Friday, March 2 in the main event of the evening.
Santiago respects his opponent but isn't overly concerned with his matchup.
"He is a great fighter but there aren't areas where I'm really concerned about. I know he's a pretty good Jiu-Jitsu fighter and he's fought some tough opponents. I'm concentrated on myself and I need to get the job done when it matters," said Santiago.
"I think he's going to try and put me down on my back. I don't think he'll want to stand and strike with me. I'm going in there to knock him out. If he wants to go to the ground then whatever. I can fight on the ground too," stated Santiago. "But, I really want to knock him out."
Santiago believes he'll be well prepared when action begins on March 2 as he's been training with one of the best camps in the United States.
"I love living in Florida and I love fighting with the Blackzilians. All the guys get together and we're staying in the same house. We're always having a lot of fun and making the best of it," shared Santiago. "We're really becoming like brothers, and we all have a great relationship with one another."
"Not only do we have fun but we're starting to see some really good results. Rashad just put up a great fight where he defeated Phil Davis. Michael Johnson also beat Shane Roller," said Santiago. "We're going to grow more and more the longer we stay together."
Santiago's closeness with his band of brothers often allows him to reminisce on memories of his father, who is no longer with him today.
"My father did everything in his life for me. I loved him very much and he was the smartest man I've ever known. Right before he died, he taught me so much. I'll never forget the memories he's left me with," stated Santiago. "I fight each fight for him."
"One of the lessons my dad taught me was to always give my best at everything I do. He told me that I could do whatever I wanted when I grew up," said Santiago. "If I wanted to collect garbage on the streets, he would want me to be the best at it."
Every time Santiago enters the ring or Octagon, he enters with a greater purpose in mind.
Santiago emphasizes the importance of friends and family and how it's motivated him to to give every ounce of effort he has.
"Family and friends are all we really have in this life. True friends will always be behind you. The best things in my life are my friends and family. My mother did everything she could for me and supported my choice to become a fighter," stated Santiago. "I also love my daughter very much, and she's the one that keeps me going."
Santiago concluded by stating,
"Someone once told me that you fight for what you love, so that's what I'm going to continue to do."
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