What more does the guy have to do?
Sean "Shorty Rock" Santella has had a very successful career at both bantamweight and flyweight. He has compiled a 15-5 professional record over the course of eight years winning multiple championship belts. A quick look at his tapology.com profile reveals Shorty Rock as the #1 Pro Flyweight in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the North East as a whole. His dominance of the East coast regional circuit is unparalleled both in success and in length.
The latter is what really bothers Santella. He has never fought on a national stage. As great as he's been for such a long time, a UFC fight has always eluded Sean's grasp. At one point he was scheduled to go against Wilson Reis at UFC 201 as a replacement. Unfortunately there were issues getting medicals, and the fight got scrapped. One moment Santella's life-long goal was coming true, and the next it was gone. Obviously this wasn't that was something easy to handle. Despite him moving on and focusing on CFFC 62, Santella acknowledges it was a major disappointment.
“It was definitely a big letdown. I wish the UFC had just given me an extra day or two to get the medicals I needed. I ended up getting them just in case I needed clearance if something did come up. I waited to see if I could possibly land another short notice call."
That second opportunity has yet to present itself, so for the time being, Santella is concentrating on the fight vs Matthew "SMG" Lozano.
"I don’t want to sit around and wait so I’m going to fight. I’m very happy to be back with CFFC because it seems like whoever holds on to that belt moves on to the next level. At this point in my career every win is important, and each one could be the one that gets me into the UFC.”
Santella is hell-bent on derailing Matthew Lozano's hype train next week at the 2300 Arena. His confidence is sky high, and he has a good feeling about how the fight is going to go.
"I look at it as a typical striker vs grappler matchup. I know Matthew has a couple submission victories, and I’m sure he’s comfortable wherever the fight goes, but I just think I’m on another level on the ground. Not just him, but everyone around here. I think he’ll try to keep the fight standing, but that’s hard to do against me in a 4 round fight. Everyone has always said they’re going to knock me out and so far no one has been able to do it. I’ve been able to take down pretty much every opponent at some point, and that’s when I look to capitalize. I know his game plan and he knows mine. It’s going to come down to who executes better that night. Even standing up I know I can hold my own with him. He’s a traditional Muay Thai fighter that likes to throw knees. Those will probably be the counter to my takedowns, but I've been working hard with my coaches on negating his strengths. I feel like once the fight goes to the ground he’s going to panic like everyone does against me. If I see an opportunity I’m going to come home with a limb or a choke.“
We've seen Shorty execute that same blueprint flawlessly in the past. His strength and top game is smothering for even the most experienced jujitsu practitioners. You would think fans would've gotten the chance to see Santella use his skill set on the sport's biggest stage by now, but that is not the case. Despite already proving he has what it takes, Santella feels he's been forgotten amongst all the chaos that is the UFC's flyweight division.
"I feel like I could be someone that gets lost in the group of fighters that should’ve gone to the UFC, but in the end it all comes down to timing and opportunity. If I continue to clean out the division around here I shouldn’t be on that list”
Speaking of clearing out a division, the UFC has perhaps the best MMA fighter in history Demetrious Johnson. "Mighty Mouse" has defeated all comers for a substantial period of time. So much so that the UFC felt the need to make this season of "The Ultimate Fighter" all flyweights in hopes of finding new challengers for the weight class. The big kicker came when the UFC announced that the winner of the TUF 24 would go on to face Johnson in a Flyweight title bout. Santella did not get picked to appear on the show. Naturally he was NOT happy.
"It hurt not being there. I do my best not to have such a big head, but knowing my ability, and the fact that I’ve fought some of the best guys at 125 and 135, I know I deserve to be there. You see these guys on the show, and some just don’t belong in the house. Just because they fought in an organization that isn’t even well known they got a belt and an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s not easy to watch. I just don’t think the talent was that great. The guys that I thought would do well, did well, and the other guys seemed like they were only brought on to be punching bags making the good fighters look better.”
As a BJJ specialist and 10-time submission victor, Shorty Rock was particularly irked by the grappling on display during the TUF 24 season.
"A lot of the jujitsu on that show was very sloppy in my opinion. There are some guys that are now under contract with them that are definitely going to get tapped out.
Santella is aware he shouldn't dwell on the past. He just has to keep his nose to the grind and eventually his UFC bid will be undeniable. Sean's determination and love for the sport have never been stronger. Partly because of the crew that he trains with. Santella says training at Ricardo Almedia BJJ, Miller Brothers MMA, and Nick Catone MMA keeps him hungry and surrounded with talent.
"These guys push me everyday and just watching how they train I'm able to learn new things. Even having twenty pro fights, I’m still looking to tweak things and improve based off of what I see in the gym. The mentality and comradery that these camps have is crazy. Even if I wasn’t fighting, I would still be training and traveling four hours just to be around those groups of people on a regular basis. It’s not all fighting with us either. We’re just as close in our regular lives. Just being around each other, the feeling is indescribable. It’s all the way from the amateur debuts to the UFC world champions.”
The love Santella shows his gyms is well warranted. Mixed martial arts is a sport that draws teammates together like no other and his crew known as the "Iron Army", is perhaps the tightest of them all. It's both inspiring and amazing to see a bond as strong as theirs.
Win or lose at CFFC 62, Sean Santella will be forever known as a pioneer for the East Coast circuit and the flyweight division. His contributions to the sport will always be recognized whether he rightfully gets his shot in the big show or not. Hopefully that day comes sooner than later for Shorty Rock.