Being a nearly-man or an also-ran is not enough for Brazil’s Luis “Sapo” Santos. The 76-bout veteran, who takes on the USA’s Tyler McGuire at ONE: PURSUIT OF POWER in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday, 13 July, is chasing World Title glory.
The 38-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is just as hungry for success as ever because he is so close to reaching the pinnacle of professional mixed martial arts.
“All athletes want to crown themselves with some good accomplishments,” he says. “Every event I have fought in before, I have tried to become a champion. For ONE, it is not any different.”
He can put himself at the front of the queue for a chance to compete for the ONE Welterweight World Title by building on his defeat of Kiamrian Abbasov in March.
His assignment inside the Aixata Arena this weekend will be against an unbeaten athlete from the USA.
McGuire is 10-0 with eight first-round finishes, and presents a huge challenge, but “Sapo” is confident his extensive experience will be a huge advantage.
“I really do not think too much about if he is undefeated or not. I have always faced amazing, great fighters during my career,” says Santos.
“I do not believe he has ever tested himself against good guys. This is going to be the first test of his career.”
There are few martial artists in the world that can match Santos’ level of experience.
The native of Belem native was pushed into judo at the age of 5, and spent 15 years diligently learning the art.
“My dad put me into training. I did not have a lot of options, because I had to obey my dad,” he recalls.
“My dad came to me and said, ‘You have to train.’ He put me in the classes and I had to go. I started doing judo when I was 5 years old, and I trained judo until I was 20.”
His penchant for the grappling arts saw him take up his native land’s art of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which was born in his hometown.
This cross-training led him to the world of mixed martial arts, where he has been one of the world’s most prolific competitors since his professional debut in March 2000.
He knew he had found his calling after his first bout, and he’s still pursuing the sport 18 years later.
“My first fight made me decide what I wanted to do for a living. I fell in love with it right away. That is why I am here today,” he says.
Ever since then, he has been pursuing that elusive belt, and the right to call himself world number one.
Santos had that opportunity once before, but it slipped through his grasp. In 2015, he met Ben “Funky” Askren at ONE: VALOR OF CHAMPIONS in the Philippines.
Despite a positive start against the undefeated World Champion, an accidental eye poke forced an early end to the match, which ended in a no contest.
If he can defeat McGuire impressively, he has a great chance of earning another chance at immortality by securing the top contender’s spot again.