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MMA: Santos eyes Askren’s belt – ‘I came to be a One FC champion’

Luis Santos finished Bakhtiyar Abbasov in 53 seconds on his One FC debut at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Fight photos: One FC.

Luis Santos has been touted as a challenger for the One FC welterweight belt held by Ben Askren. Fight photos: One FC.

November 12, 2014: When Luis Santos made his One FC debut at Battle of Lions in Singapore last Friday night, he entered the ring as a ring-hardened veteran of 70 professional MMA fights (60-9-1) since making his debut in March 2000.


The six-foot one-inch Brazilian had fought more than three times the number of bouts of the card’s second-most experienced fighter – Tatsuya Mizuno, with 22 – and more than half of the total bouts fought by the card’s other 19 fighters.


Now 34, Santos shows no signs of slowing down. After a hit-and-miss year at Bellator (May 2011-May 2012), he secured his seventh straight win with his 53-second demolition of Bakhtiyar Abbasov at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, prompting talk that he could challenge Ben Askren for One FC’s welterweight title.


"I came to One FC to be a champion." Portraits: SportAsia.

“I came to One FC to be a champion.” Portraits: SportAsia.

Like Santos, Askren beat Abbasov on his One FC debut in Singapore, earning a submission after four minutes and 21 seconds in May. In August, the former Bellator champion lifted One FC’s welterweight belt in Dubai by stopping Nobutatsu Suzuki within two minutes to stretch his unbeaten record for 14-0.


Now, Santos has his eyes fixed firmly on taking the belt off Askren after demolishing Abbasov in far more exciting fashion than the American did.


“I’m not coming to One FC to be just another fighter,” Santos told SportAsia, through a translator. “I’m coming here to be a champion. I don’t know if the next fight’s going to be for the belt or maybe after a couple of fights, but I came here to be the One FC champion.”


Santos, who has now fought 71 pro bouts, believes any title shot is likely to be against Askren and that such a fight would resolve some unfinished business.


After signing for Bellator in 2011, Santos reached the semi-finals of the Season Five welterweight tournament, but lost to Ben Saunders in October, later vowing he would never again fight injured. Saunders lost in November’s final to Douglas Lima, who earned the chance to challenge Askren for the welterweight title in April 2012, the latter winning a unanimous decision after five rounds.


“The funny thing is, in the other show (Bellator), I reached the semi-final, but I hurt myself, so I could not fight against Ben,” Santos said. “And now we turn the page and again I have the opportunity to fight against this guy.”


Luis Santos finished Bakhtiyar Abbasov in 53 seconds on his One FC debut in Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Luis Santos finished Bakhtiyar Abbasov in 53 seconds on his One FC debut in Singapore Indoor Stadium.

After 14 years competing around the world, Santos was full of praise for One FC and said he was happy to be fighting for a promotion based in Asia.


“It’s a really good event, an amazing show,” Santos said. “MMA is originally from Asia and Muay Thai is from Thailand, so it’s great to be able to show my own skills here.”


Santos was arguably the standout performer at Battle of Lions, celebrating wildly after finishing Abbasov, who was fighting for the first time Askren ended his 10-win streak.


Santos put on a devastating show, exhibiting a wide range of fast, hard strikes before ultimately finishing Abbasov with a flying knee to the ribs, which led to the Azerbaijani tapping out on the floor as the Brazilian smashed a soccer kick into the back of his thigh.


“It was an incredible feeling when I won the fight. I’ve been training a lot with the front-on knee. I like to do some repetitions, like a lot of drills, so this was not an accidental shot,” Santos said.


“My opponent is a really tough guy and he already fought against the champion (Ben Askren), so I knew this would be tough. I’m now looking forward to fighting the champion for the belt.”


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