Leonardo Santos: Taro Irei | Sherdog.com
TOKYO -- Leonardo Santos got a win Sunday at Sengoku Raiden Championship 14, but he didn’t prevail the way he wanted.
The Nova Uniao black belt won via disqualification after repeated low blows from Sotaro Yamada. In this exclusive interview, Santos discusses the match and the possibility that he would enter an SRC lightweight tournament.
Sherdog.com: I want to say congratulations since you did win this evening, but I'm sure it wasn't in the way you wanted to. Can you give me your immediate thoughts on the fight?
Santos: It's terrible. I never thought it would go that way. I trained so hard, was so focused on coming out to Japan. I was thinking, “It's kill or be killed.” It's the first time for me that I've been so sad over the result of a fight.
Sherdog.com: You said after the fight that what happened was obviously not something that you intended. Thinking back to your camp and the days leading up to the fight, how did you originally want this fight to go?
Santos: In my mind, I wanted to take him down and get him with a submission on the ground. But [during the fight] I saw he was scared of the stand-up, so I thought I would throw some punches and kicks, and just wait for a moment to get into a good position. But I didn't have time to do what I planned.
Sherdog.com: I don't want to make you relive any painful memories, but I have to ask, what went through your mind as you received each low blow?
Santos: [Laughing] I don't know why he kept doing it after the third time! I thought, “Is this guy sick?” When he hit me the last time, I thought, “Oh my God, this guy doesn't want to fight. He just wants to hurt me and get it over with.” It's hard for me to understand why he kept doing it. If it was me, after the second time, I would stop, you know? But he kept making the same mistake. It's hard to understand what he was thinking.
Sherdog.com: I recall in the press conference yesterday that he asked you to grapple with him, and you smiled at him and said “Sure!” Do you think he might have been trying to convince you to go to the ground in the most painful way possible?
Santos: [Laughs] Like this? Well, if he's thinking like that, that's really bad, because he hurt me. It was illegal. If he wants to put me on the ground, why didn't he do a double leg, right?
Sherdog.com: Did you get a chance to talk to him after the fight?
Santos: I met with him and he said, “Sorry, I tried my best.” I told him, “It's all right.” Then he said, “I want to fight you again,” and I said, “OK, if you want to fight again, no problem.” But he needs to see that [low blows are] illegal. It hurts a lot. Four times? It hurts a lot!
Sherdog.com: So let me understand this -- you're open for a rematch with him?
Santos: [Laughs] Yeah, for sure. But next time, I'm coming out with the best groin protection I can find. [Santos motions toward his groin, miming the shape of a large pad or cup.] The first two hurt me a lot. After that, all I felt was soreness in my stomach, and I thought, “Oh my God, this guy is crazy. Why is he still doing this?” By the last two, I figured, “All right, this guy doesn't want to fight.”
In the beginning, when I blocked the first one, watch the referee -- the referee warned him, showing him that he should watch out for the groin strikes. But when I pulled my hand away from defending, bang. [Santos claps his hands to mimic the impact.]
I trained hard. I'm a professional. I don't like to win like this.
Sherdog.com: Did you watch any video on him before coming into this fight?
Santos: I tried to look for some, but I couldn't find much. When I [saw him in the ring], I saw he was southpaw, and I [originally] thought he was right handed. So I [had to] change my game plan a little bit then.
Sherdog.com: Well, injuries notwithstanding, what do you want to do next in SRC?
Santos: Well, I work for Sengoku, so I want to be the champion. It's my dream. I don't want to pick fighters; I just want to see my dream of being the champion. So whoever I have to fight, I'll fight, and do my best.
Sherdog.com: You're with Nova Uniao. Your gym has had a lot of success lately. Does that have any bearing on your performances, and how so?
Santos: You know, I started training with Nova Uniao from the beginning. So now this is all just the results of my hard work with them. It's great to be a part of this team. It's a family. Marlon [Sandro] has the belt at featherweight, and now I'm looking for my belt too. I want to be a champion like him, Wagnney Fabiano, Jose Aldo -- all those guys.
Sherdog.com: Currently, there's no lightweight champion in SRC. There are rumors that they're looking to put together a lightweight tournament in order to crown one. Any interest in throwing your hat in?
Santos: For sure. I told my manager that I don't care who I'm fighting. I want to get the belt. I want to be in the tournament to get the belt, so I'll fight to do it. It's my dream. I'll work hard for it.