Former title challenger Luis Santos won't stop till he has a ONE Championship belt
With 76 pro fights under his belt, and an incredible 65 wins, it’s safe to say Luis Santos has been around the block a few times.
What Santos doesn’t have on his resume yet is a ONE Championship title, even though he had a crack at one four years ago. It’s something he still has his sights set on.
But now 39, the Brazilian also knows the end of his fighting career may be not far down the road.
“I plan to keep fighting until I am crowned the ONE champion,” Santos told MMA Junkie. “I also started looking ahead. I’ve been training some fighters at American Top Team. I see myself in this function even more now – I’m about to open my own academy in May.”
Santos gets back to work Friday in a welterweight fight against the unbeaten James Nakashima at ONE Championship 93, which takes place at Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. The main card streams on B/R Live following prelims on Facebook and Twitter.
Santos has alternated wins and losses his past five fights, but has gone 4-2 since a controversial no-contest against former ONE champion Ben Askren in April 2015. An eye poke left Askren unable to continue, and Santos never got another crack at the belt.
“I’m super happy with I’ve accomplished so far in my career,” Santos said. “I’ve defeated many great opponents and I keep working hard to be victorious. I know that the fight game is always evolving. I continue to train very hard to improve in all areas.
“… My preparation has been great. I’ve been working on what my opponent does well, which is wrestling. I’ve also done a lot of judo. American Top Team is the best gym in terms of wrestling. I trained with my coach Steve Mocco. I’m confident I’ll have a great fight.”
Santos said he hadn’t seen much of Nakashima before they were booked to fight. But he said he believes his opponent, who trains at The MMA Lab in Phoenix with the likes of former UFC and WEC champion Benson Henderson, brings a level of predictability to their fight.
“I don’t really watch LFA, so I didn’t know him,” Santos said. “By watching his videos, I can tell he always does the same things, so I don’t see the fight going to a three-round decision. I’m looking to score another KO win.”
Nakashima went 5-0 under the RFA banner, then won LFA’s welterweight title against Derrick Krantz in September 2017. He defended it with a decision win over Kyle Stewart in July 2018, then signed with ONE later that year.
In his promotional debut, the 30-year-old Nakashima took a unanimous decision from Raimond Magomedaliev, giving him back-to-back wins over previously unbeaten opponents.
But even though Santos is a native of Brazil, he believes he’ll get some love from the fans against Nakashima on Friday.
“I love to compete in Asia. Everywhere I’ve competed in Asia, I’ve been very well received. I expect to have a lot of positive energy from the fans. It will be great. It helps me focus in the cage, and do an even greater job.”