Sengoku middleweight champion Jorge Santiago has been granted his release by the organization, MMA Fighting has learned from sources close to the promotion.
Santiago's manager Malki Kawa of Authentic Sports Management wouldn't confirm or deny that Santiago is now a free agent when reached for comment, but additional sources say Santiago is looking to sign imminently with a major North American promotion.
Santiago has spent a little under three years under World Victory Road's Sengoku banner, making his debut with the promotion in May of 2008 in a submission win over Yuki Sasaki. He followed his debut with victories over Logan Clark, Siyar Bahadurzada, and Kazuhiro Nakamura within the structure of the 2008 Sengoku Middleweight Grand Prix tournament. Those victories led to a title showdown with Japanese middleweight kingpin Kazuo Misaki in the Grand Prix finale at Sengoku Rebellion 2009, and the fight turned out to be an epic back-and-forth war that ended with Santiago submitting Misaki halfway through the fifth round of action.
After a stunning loss to Mamed Khalidov in a non-title affair at Sengoku 11, Santiago returned four months later and edged out Khalidov in a rematch at Sengoku 12 with his title on the line. His most recent win was deemed the fight of the year by Sherdog.com in 2010, a classic rematch with Kazuo Misaki at Sengoku 14 in which Santiago knocked out Misaki with 0:30 seconds remaining in the fifth and final round while being down on the scorecards.
All signs indicate that Santiago may be heading back to Strikeforce. He fought twice in the promotion at a one-night event back in November of 2007 known as Strikeforce: Four Men Enter, One Man Leaves. Many fans may recall Santiago's brutal flying knee knockout of Sean Salmon as the highlight of the evening.
Santiago also has ties to the UFC, but according to his official Twitter account -- he has expressed some interest in fighting middleweights Ronaldo Souza, Jason "Mayhem" Miller, and Robbie Lawler.