With the UFC potentially stepping away from the men’s flyweight division, many organizations invested in the weight class. Last year the Brave Combat Federation attempted to crown a flyweight king but were ultimately unsuccessful when eventual winner Velimurad Alkhasov missed his mark on the scale. Brave CF has continued to sign quality talent to the category. One of these acquisitions was long time CFFC champion Sean “Shorty Rock” Santella. He spoke with MMASucka recently about his career, the market for flyweights and more.
Signing with Brave CF
He began by discussing how he linked up with the fast-rising Bahrain-based outfit.
“I made it over to [Brave CF] because Frankie Edgar was commentating and they were looking for some flyweights. He put in a good word for me and the next thing you know they reached out to me. The promotion is making moves and are bringing in top guys so I’m excited to mix it up with them.”
Santella faced former ACB (now ACA) flyweight king Velimurad Alkhasov in his Brave debut. Ultimately, dropping a decision to the Russian at Brave CF 14. Santella hopes for a rematch in the future.
“Velimurad is a warrior. We had a back and forth fight. I rocked him in the first, but he recovered quickly. In the second and third rounds, the floor was really slippery and I slipped throwing my combos. He played it safe by standing over me and kicking my legs. The ref was really inexperienced and let him do that for almost half the round before standing us up. I’d love to get that rematch.”
Brave CF 16
At Brave CF 16 the organization attempted to crown an inaugural 125-pound champion, The organization booked Alkhasov opposite Marcel Adur. Alkhasov was victorious but left empty-handed due to a misstep on the scale the night of the weigh-ins. “Shorty Rock” believes that if you are unable to consistently make the contracted weight, fighters should move up a division.
“I didn’t get a chance to see the fight but I read the round-by-round updates. It sounded like he stayed in the clinch and avoided Marcel’s striking. To me, the first fight you have is the one with the scale. As a professional, I take it very seriously to make weight. It is part of my job. If you can’t make weight you shouldn’t fight at that weight class.”
Building a Division
One of the more high-profile free agents to sign on with Brave CF is former two-division Titan FC champion Jose Torres. Santella believes a win at Brave CF 23 puts Torres in a position to compete for the inaugural flyweight title.
“I think if Jose “Shorty” Torres wins his next fight they will probably have him fight for the title. I’d love that fight. There can be only one Shorty,” Santella laughed before he continued. “I’d love the opportunity to fight him, but right now it would most likely be Velimurad vs. Torres.”
A Return to CFFC
A former longtime CFFC titleholder, Santella returned to the promotion last month. In doing so, he picked up a decision victory over Naoki Inoue. He spoke about signing on with a promotion that allows him to stay active when things don’t go as planned.
“I think I have a great relationship with [Brave CF]. I was supposed to fight in December but my opponent had medical issues so my flight got canceled. [Brave CF] was nice enough to let me fight outside of the promotion in order to stay active, which was awesome because I’m not the type of fighter that wants a long layoff. I’m hoping they have a quick turnaround for me because I’m ready to fight tomorrow. I honestly didn’t know that they would let me fight out of contract, but I appreciate them letting me stay active.”
Regarding his return to the CFFC promotion, a place that he called home for many years, Santella was so sick the night of the fight that he barely remembers competing at the event.
“Honestly I barely remember that fight. I was so sick the week of the fight and that whole day after the first round my body was like Jell-O and I was telling myself how am I going to make it through the next 10 minutes. The second and third round was a blur I didn’t even know I won that’s how delirious I was.”
UFC Downsizing Flyweight
Fans were surprised late last year when it was announced that the UFC would trade pound-for-pound great Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson to the ONE Championship organization. A move which suggested potentially stepping away from promoting flyweight contests in the future. “Shorty Rock” doesn’t agree with the decision, but is happy to be with a company that stands to benefit from the move.
“I don’t really understand the UFC thought process on the flyweight division, I don’t think they did their best to market the fighters correctly. And I feel they’re putting the blame on the fighters which isn’t right. I think the market is going to be overseas and I’m just glad to be with one of the biggest organizations that gives the flyweights an opportunity to show their worth.”
With organizations across the globe such as Fight Nights, ACA, ONE Championship, and RIZIN continuing to invest in the lighter athlete, Santella thinks the landscape for flyweights only benefits from the UFC’s decision.
“I think it has its benefits. A lot of those organizations already had quality flyweights while the UFC still had the division. I don’t think the UFC had all the best flyweights, but they did have some great fighters. I’m just hoping that other organizations give the weight-class a chance.”
Brooks in Sight
With his victory over former UFC fighter Naoki Inoue, “Shorty Rock” eyes other former UFC fighters recently released from the outfit. One such athlete is Jarred Brooks. Santella and Brooks recently exchanged words on Twitter, but this wasn’t the first time the two didn’t see eye to eye.
“(Jarred Brooks and I) go back before he got signed by the UFC. I gave a list of fighters I wanted to fight because a lot of fighters were turning me down. He had a good record so I threw his name on there. He started talking smack on social media and then privately messaged me about him being signed by the UFC. What most people don’t know is he turned me down back when he had eight or nine fights. He didn’t want to fight me like most of the other flyweights outside of the UFC. I just knocked off one UFC vet I would love a chance to knock off another.”
With Brave CF slowly building a respectable 125-pound division, many wonder if this is a fight we could possibly see under the BFC banner in the future. Santella is not holding his breath.
“I’m not too sure. I know [Brave CF] has signed a decent amount of flyweights. Right now Brooks is fighting a kid that is 12-12 locally, so I doubt he’s up for a real challenge.”
With one win already under his belt to begin the year, the #1 ranked flyweight on the U.S. regional circuit hopes to be fairly active in 2019.
“I want to fight at least 3 more times. If that happens I see myself holding another belt!”
“Shorty Rock” ended the interview by taking time out to thank his supporters.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without my friends, family, and teammates. Thank you Shortyville!”