“Close” to the UFC, Jorge Santiago wants to prove he’s one of the tops

By Guilherme Cruz

Middleweight champion of Sengoku, Jorge Santiago left his Japanese title looking for new challenges. On an exclusive interview given to TATAME, the athlete of American Top Team denied that he’s signed with UFC, but he’s close to the event, and wants to reach the tops. “I’m not only thinking about the present, I’m thinking about the future. I’m one more on this battle, but eventually I want to have a title shot against whoever the champion is”, said Jorge, who commented the crisis on Japanese MMA, the proposals he received on the United States and compared himself from the fighter who fought on UFC, in 2006. “I’d beat up the Jorge Santiago from 2006 (laughs)”, guarantees, commenting the backstage of the win between Antonio Silva over Fedor Emelianenko.

People are talking a lot about you leaving Sengoku for UFC… What’s true about it?
The truth is that I asked to be dismissed from Sengoku, because there were no reasons to be there anymore, I didn’t have opponents to fight. The time is going by and I wanted to come here because the top athletes are here, I want to belong to this crew. It’s not a total lie what they’ve been saying, me and UFC are almost getting to an agreement, we’ve also talked a lot with Strikeforce and, these days, we’ll decide with whom we’ll sign up.

Japan is a traditional country when it comes to MMA, and it’s been going through a crisis. How do you see it?
It’s sad because most of MMA fans followed the sports when there was Pride there, and then you really had the support. I think that as it finish its works and with the great economy of the United States, the events there are over. UFC decided, at the right moment, to do a reality show and it’s called people’s attention to see what it was all about and they did a good marketing work, and Japan doesn’t have sponsors anymore. When I went there, on the beginning of 2008, when Pride was extinct, I thought it’d be the same. I have no complaints towards Sengoku, I’ve fought pretty good guys, I’m the champion over there, but it’s come to a point I don’t have any more fights to do, they can’t bring guys there for me to fight and I want to fight and I want to be on an event that can do this for me.

On the United States you had offers from Strikeforce and UFC. Why are you more likely to sign with UFC?
Man, I can’t yet confirm it because I haven’t signed. The fact I came to the United States was because the market here is huge, the athlete gets more recognition.

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