Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
To say that 2020 was a let down for most competitive combat sports athletes would be a drastic understatement. In a career where time is of the essence, a year removed from competition, smack dab in the prime of your physical existence is not optimal for anyone with their eyes on the "next level." For 28 year old Milford, Massachusetts native Richie "Suave" Santiago (8-2) 2020 started out with a bang, in January at CES 60 when Santiago stopped Giorgi Kudukhashvili (5-3) with ground and pound to get back to his winning ways following a decision loss to Miles Johns (11-1) on the summer 2019 season of Dana White's Contender Series. With the dismantling of Kudukhashvili in his back pocket, it appeared that Santiago would again be knocking on the door of the UFC's Bantamweight division before the conclusion of 2020.
But as fate would have it; the World had other plans, and as Covid-19 swept the globe, Gyms and Promotions were forced to shut down and the Combat Sports World as we knew it was dragged into limbo. The first casualty for Santiago; his April 24th meeting with Blaine Shutt (8-4), set to headline the CES 61 card, for a shot at Shutt's CES Flyweight World Title; Scrapped. And as weeks turned to months, and as months began to stack up, many careers; like that of Santiago's were forced into lull. Now over a year removed from his last trip to the cage, and with nothing on the horizon here in Santiago's Native New England, Richie and his Manager; Cage Titans FC owner Michael Polvere, were forced to look for opportunities outside the region for the Lauzon MMA and Tri-Force MMA product.
Well, for Santiago; the opportunity has finally come as he straps the gloves up for the first time under the Titan FC banner, when "The Milford Mauler" takes his talents to South Beach this Friday night and squares off with Undefeated prospect; Alberto "The Promise" Montes (4-0) on the Main Card at Titan FC 67, broadcast exclusively on UFC Fightpass. Santiago spoke with our Steve Domenico in depth leading up to his return to the cage in this episode of The Room Podcast, where Richie spoke at length about his time away from the cage, his opponent; Montes and what its going to be like traveling outside the region as he continues his climb back to the UFC's radar.
For the 26 year old Venezuelan Montes this will be just his second fight since moving from his native Venezuela, stateside some six years ago to pursue his dream of competing in the UFC. Montes last fought in July of 2017 at Combate 16: Combate Clasico in Miami, Florida as he improved his unbeaten record to 4-0 with a Unanimous Decision victory over Jonathan Quiroz (2-2). Montes appears to have a Tae Kwon Do background, as his stance would indicate, and fires some pretty flashy kicks when at range making him a pretty dynamic striker. However, one should not overlook the BJJ Brown Belts ground game, as Montes scored his first two professional victories by submission making him equally as dynamic if this fight ends up on the mat.
Santiago told Steve Domenico in his interview that he plans to strike with Montes; "Every fight starts on the feet" said Richie, who has shown a granite chin in the past and is always willing to take some shots to get the fight where he wants it. Richie is confident in his wrestling and once he gets his opponents to the canvas, he finishes them, cashing in on six career submissions, across his eight professional victories. Santiago is confident that he will return home from Miami with his ninth win in hand, as he looks to leave a lasting impression at Titan FC 67 this Friday night when he makes his highly anticipated return to the cage and to UFC Fightpass where he looks to once again garner the attention of UFC brass.
Titan FC 67 will be broadcast live on UFC Fightpass starting at 6:30 pm eastern, Friday February 12th from the InterContinental Miami, in Miami Florida. Titan FC 67 will be headlined by two professional title fights as Featherweights Muhammadjon Naimov (5-1) and Olivier Murad (4-0) do battle for the Titan FC Featherweight Title in the Co-Main event, and a recognizable name to New England MMA fans; Da'Mon Blackshear (8-3, CES and NEF alum) throws down with Danny Sabatello (9-1) for the Titan FC Bantamweight strap in the evenings Main Event.