Jorge Santiago is looking for redemption.
After a 1-2 stint in the UFC in 2006 and his subsequent release from the organization, Santiago went on a tear, winning 11 of his next 12 fights, while racking up achievement after achievement, including two "Fight of the Year" candidates against Kazuo Misaki, a Strikeforce middleweight tournament title, the 2008 Sengoku Middleweight Grand Prix title and the Sengoku middleweight championship.
Despite having garnered all those accolades, Santiago wants a second chance at the UFC. With Sengoku headed under, Santiago has left Japan for another chance at American glory. He was quickly snatched up by the UFC and he'll get that chance when he faces Brian Stann at UFC 130 in May.
"In the UFC, I didn't have a good experience before and now I have a chance to go back and redo it," Santiago said last week on Bloody Elbow Radio. "I'm very excited. This is the place every fighter wants to be. The UFC is the biggest organization and I'm very excited. That's all I can say. I'll train very hard to leave a big impression in my first fight."
Santiago, who holds a career record of 23-8, said he told himself after he beat Misaki to win the Sengoku title that he had to get back to the UFC because all the best middleweights were fighting there. He's certainly correct as only one fighter outside the UFC currently is in the top 10 of the USA Today/SB Nation Consensus Rankings at middleweight.
"I couldn't ask for a better shot," Santiago said. "Come back to the UFC on the main card, fight Brian Stann, such a great opponent. He's improved every fight. Everybody can see that. I think it's the best. I couldn't ask for a better comeback. I just want to go, jump in there and make a big impression for the fans. Now they'll remember me as the guy who beat Brian Stann, not the guy who lost back in the day."
Eventually Santiago would like to get a crack at UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Santiago and Silva both had their first UFC fight on the same night — June 28, 2006. Since, their careers have taken different paths. Could those paths cross again if Santiago racks up a couple big wins?
"Anderson Silva is tricky," Santiago said. "He uses all the tools he has to confuse fighters but no one is invincible. Chael Sonnen almost did it. I think if you mix up the game and try to study his game and see the gaps he has, everybody has gaps in their game. ... We would find a way to beat him. Nobody's unbeatable."
To get that chance, though, Santiago will first have to get by Stann, an ever-improving fighter who hits very hard, as evident by his decimation of notoriously hard-headed Chris Leben at UFC 125. An impressive win against Stann, a very popular fighter, could set Santiago up for a run in the UFC middleweight division as he looks to redeem himself for 2006.
"I'm doing this because we always try to be the best," Santiago said. "I have to do it a different way now. It's the new way of Jorge Santiago, the way I'm fighting right now."
You can hear the entire interview with Santiago by listening to the Thursday edition of Bloody Elbow Radio. Bloody Elbow Radio returns at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT Tuesday to talk all the latest in MMA.