Jose Torres (9-1-1 MMA, 1-0-1 BRAVE CF) isn’t just looking to beat Sean Santella (23-7-2 MMA, 0-1-1 BRAVE CF) in their rematch at BRAVE CF 49; he wants to win convincingly.
“Shorty” Torres and “Shorty Rock” squared off at BRAVE CF 42 in September where the two fought to a majority draw. The two “shorty’s” are set to do it again on March 25, and the winner will advance in the BRAVE Combat Federation flyweight tournament.
Torres said he enters the rematch in a better headspace than when he and Santella first fought.
“Sadly, my father passed away,” Torres told MMASucka. “I had a mental breakdown. I couldn’t push forward, and I couldn’t compete with it.”
Torres was scheduled to fight Marcel Adur for the BRAVE flyweight title in November 2019 before his father’s passing. Now, Torres finds himself preparing to rematch Santella to advance in the promotion’s tournament.
He said he knows neither of them entered their first fight under ideal circumstances; Torres had not fought in a year-and-a-half prior to his first bout with Santella, while Santella had been out for a year himself.
“I went into that last fight very handicapped and very in my head,” Torres said. “I had a lot of anxiety going in there. By the time the fight was over, it was a relief of stress off my shoulders. ‘Like, man, why couldn’t this happen at least two rounds ago?’ Now I’m having a lot of fun.”
He attributes that fun to training with former UFC fighter-turned coach Din Thomas. Under Thomas, Torres trained with UFC flyweight Gillian Robertson and David Evans, and said he had a “phenomenal” camp.
Under Thomas’ stewardship and a better headspace, Torres said he’s focused more on strategy and how he can score the win over Santella.
“With the first fight, I know I can beat him,” Torres said. “I offer more skills than he does. It’s just the fact of actually implementing them. For me, it’s going to be a much more strategic fight. It has to be. It’s not going to a long, drawn-out decision like this last one. That’s not something the fans want, and that’s not something I want. I just want to be able to get the win in a very dominant-fashioned way and be able to get on to the next round.”
Jose Torres vs. Sean Santella II
Torres feels he holds the technical edges in the stand-up and referred to Santella as a ground fighter. “Shorty” said he would take a more patient approach this go-around.
“It’s like Demian Maia vs. Tyron Woodley,” he said. “If I have to move and back up a couple of times, then so be it. I have to strategically use my pressure. In the last fight, he used my pressure against me. He was trying to take me down, but because he couldn’t multiple times, he would just pull guard, and some of them, in very fun fashion like Granby rolls. It’s one of those things I need to be systematic. I need to be smart. I need to be Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns and make this a ‘Rocky 3’ type of fight and slowly break him down until I see my window of opportunity.”
Should Torres advance, he is slated to fight the winner between Ali Bagautinov and Dustin Ortiz. Ortiz is a former UFC fighter, while Bagautinov once challenged Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title.
Bagautinov and Ortiz are scheduled to go at it at BRAVE CF 50 on April 1. Torres said he intends to remain in Bahrain an extra week to catch the fight in-person.
“I’m a fan of both of them and I grew up watching those guys,” he said. “It’s an honor to be able to possibly have the chance to fight them next.”
Torres said it would mean the “world” to him to win the BRAVE CF flyweight title. At 28, “Shorty” is now entering his prime. In the early stages of his career, Torres was a two-time IMMAF world champion and a dual-weight Titan FC champion.
Torres’ momentum brought him to the UFC, where he went 1-1, notching a win over Jarred Brooks and losing to recent flyweight title challenger Alex Perez. Torres, in his BRAVE CF debut, defeated Amir Albazi, who is currently 2-0 in the UFC.
Now in his prime and following the loss of his father, Torres said he considers the BRAVE tournament a test for himself.
“To see if I’m really able to do this, still,” Torres said. “With the mental strain I’ve been going through the past few years; before the UFC, during the UFC and my starting run in Brave, and now obviously COVID, it’s more of a mental battle. I’m excited to push through and prevail.”
Training with Din Thomas
Torres said his training camps for Santella – both during the coronavirus pandemic – have been better than ever. He attributes that to training full time with Din Thomas. After Thomas left American Top Team, Torres said he and Gillian Robertson would drive two hours a day to Port St. Lucie to train with Thomas after training at ATT in the morning.
“ATT wasn’t a fan of it, so we decided it was, ‘Hey, I think it’s better for us to part ways and train with Din Thomas full time,” Torres said. “Both Gillian and I decided to stay and pretty much live with Din.”
Robertson is from Port St. Lucie and lives a couple of blocks away from where Thomas trains. Torres, meanwhile, lives with Thomas.
Torres has trained at Roufusport, Jackson Wink, American Top Team, Team Elevation and many other gyms. Torres said he had the support of his coach, Master Bob Schirmer, on the phone, but it wasn’t hands-on. Training and living with Thomas, Torres has gotten the one-on-one help that he feels he needed.
“Most of the gyms, I wasn’t really able to get that, because they’re focused on their guys,” Torres said. “Especially with me, being a little bit of a gym hopper, they were fearful of me leaving, which is understandably so. I’ve decided to stay and live with Din. It’s been about a year now. Honestly, this is easily one of my better camps, and I’m very happy about that.”
Torres pointed to how highly-touted and respected Thomas is throughout the MMA community.
“To wake up in the morning, have breakfast with the man, learn the ins and outs of MMA, inside the cage and outside the cage, promote yourself, speak, do this, do that,” Torres said. “The mental side has been huge. I’m having fun again in the sport, which is a crazy thing.”
Torres gets two training sessions per day in with Thomas, he said. The Santella rematch marks Torres’ second full camp under Thomas’ guidance. Overall, the experience has been a good time for Torres.
“Din is a very positive person. He just knows those things to tell you when you really need to hear it most. He’s a phenomenal human being. I’m just happy for him in general, and I know he’s happy for me. He trusts me. That’s why he asked me to come out here by myself. He knows I can do the rest of the camp by myself; he believes in me that much. I look at him now as not just a mentor or a coach, but a father figure. I’m very excited for what’s to come.”
Torres does not have an official prediction for how his rematch with Santella ends, though he said he would aim to finish him. Torres feels, based on the first fight, he has the better gas tank and the bout favors him the longer it goes.
“I’m not going for it in that same mindset with the blinders on going for the KO, because that’s what got me in those crucial Jiu-Jitsu scramble situations that nobody likes to play; especially with Sean being very dangerous,” Torres said. “… I’m excited to get a dominating finish.”
BRAVE CF 49 is scheduled to go down at Arad Fort in Bahrain at 8:30 a.m. EST Thursday, March 25. Jose Torres and Sean Santella will be the card’s headliner.