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Chicago’s Mike Santiago Ready to Impress At UFC Fight Night: St. Louis

Contender Series Veteran Mike Santiago Details UFC debut, Mads Burnell and his experience on the Contender Series.

Chicago stand up.

This Sunday night, one of Chicago’s finest mixed martial artists steps into the cage at UFC Fight Night: St. Louis.  Featherweight slugger Mike Santiago (21-10, 0-1 UFC) will make his return to the famous UFC octagon looking for redemption.

Mainstream MMA fans first became familiarized with Santiago this past summer during “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series.”  The UFC Fight Pass original series, featured top fighters from all over the country, competing in front of UFC brass for the chance to earn a UFC contract.  The 28 year old fighter put on an impressive showing, knocking out gritty veteran Mark Cherico (11-2) in a matter of minutes.  Unfortunately for Santiago, the competition on the card was insurmountably strong on that night.  Despite the highlight reel win, Santiago was not awarded a UFC contract.

The contract snub from UFC brass came as a bit of a surprise to many who watched the card, and to Santiago himself.  “For me to do what I did in front of Dana [White], Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby, I thought I sealed the deal,” recalls Santiago.  “I was only upset for like a day though, because at the end of the day, I went out there and did what I had to do.  If they didn’t like it, then that was on them.”

Luckily for Santiago, he didn’t have to wait long to obtain the UFC contract which had eluded him.  “I fought on the Tuesday show, and then that Thursday at 3am all of the calls starting coming in,” remembers Santiago.  “I wake up at like 5am with calls from my mom, my trainer and everyone.  I called my trainer and he just started screaming,” laughs Santiago.  “[My trainer] just starts screaming, ‘WAKE UP!  WAKE UP!  WE’RE IN!  WE’RE IN!'”

Just nine days removed from his “Contender Series” bout, Mike Santiago would find himself halfway across the world in Amsterdam, competing in the UFC against one of the most highly touted featherweight prospects in recent memory.  Just days prior to Santiago getting the long-awaited phone call, German featherweight Nick Hein went down with an injury that resulted in his subsequent removal from his bout at UFC Fight Night: Rotterdam.

Hein had been paired up with uberly hyped Russian newcomer Zabit Magomedsharipov— a debutant who was allegedly being avoided by numerous fighters on the UFC roster.  The mass avoidance by fighters puzzled Santiago, who didn’t think twice at jumping at the opportunity.  “People kept telling me nobody wanted to fight him. I’m like, why?  Why are guys in the UFC still turning down fights?  That’s the one thing I don’t understand.  I will never, ever turn down a fight….EVER!”

The frequently referenced “UFC jitters” were not a problem for Santiago in his debut, who was just stunned by the overall suddenness of the situation upon which he had been thrown into.  “I didn’t have time to get nervous,” explains Santiago.  “You’ve been waiting for this you’re whole career, and it was like I didn’t even have time to breathe!”  When all was said and done, it was Magomedsharipov that was having his hand raised.  Despite putting out a spirited effort, Santiago was submitted by Magomedsharpiov in the second round.

Fast foward to present day.  Having taken a few months off to gather himself and get a full fight camp under his belt, Santiago will step into the UFC octagon this Saturday night to take on fellow UFC sophomore Mads Burnell (8-2, 0-0 UFC).  Much like Santiago, Burnell dropped his short notice UFC debut at UFC Fight Night: Rotterdam.

While Santiago understands the threats that Burnell presents, he is confident in his own abilities and experience.  “He’s a tough guy, but I’ve fought every single style of fighter” says Santiago of his Danish foe.  “Now, having a full camp and being able to train for one specific guy, I think [Burnell] matches up really well in my favor.”

As for a prediction, Santiago doesn’t know exactly how the fight will end, but he believes all potential outcomes will have a common trait.  “Whichever way it goes, my hand will be raised at the end of the fight,” says Santiago confidently.  “I will win this fight.  I’m very confident in that.”

To learn more about Mike Santiago, follow him on social media:

Twitter: @MSantiagomma
Instagram: @msantiagomma


UFC Fight Night: St. Louis takes place Sunday, January 14th at the Scottstrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri.  The card will air live and free on Fox Sports 1 in the United States, with select prelims airing on UFC Fight Pass.  The main event features a showdown between featherweight contenders Jeremy Stephens and Doo Ho Choi.  Featured bouts between middleweights Vitor Belfort and Uriah Hall, and women’s flyweights Paige VanZant and Jessica-Rose Clark are also scheduled for the event. Stay tuned to MMA Today for all of the latest news, updates and announcements concerning UFC Fight Night: St. Louis.



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Nolan King is a MMA Today senior columnist, writer and renowned MMA insider. Nolan's other freelance work can also be found on FloCombat, Tapology, and MMA Brasil.