Sean Santella is not giving up on being in the UFC just yet.
With a 23-7-1 record in 12 years of being a professional fighter, “Shorty Rock” is keeping his hopes of fighting inside the octagon alive. The flyweight prospect was seen on “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” in 2017. He even was set to be a replacement for Demetrious Johnson against Wilson Reis at UFC 201 in 2016.
An issue with Santella’s medicals prevented him from replacing Johnson against Reis. Later, his attempt on White’s show was unsuccessful and his second shot with the promotion was taken away. To this day, Santella is still chasing the UFC.
A recent trip to Jacksonville to corner Sijara Eubanks at UFC on ESPN+ 29 on May 13 is another part of Santella’s long journey to be a UFC signee. While at the event, Santella talked with UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard to clear the air.
“Honestly, it’s just a big misunderstanding that has to do with my sports medicals,” Santella said.
“So I’m trying to have that straightened out by speaking directly with the UFC doctors and then have them telling me exactly what I need to do. Then have them let Mick Maynard and Dana [White] know, ‘Hey this kid is signed. He’s as healthy as a horse and there’s no issues.’”
The UFC requested additional medicals from Santella before a potential bout with Reis in 2016. There was not enough time for Santella to submit the requirements and the bout was later scrapped.
— Shorty Rock (@Srock125) July 16, 2016
Since then, Sean Santella won eight out of his last 10 fights, including winning the Cage Fury Fighting Championships [CFFC] flyweight title on two separate occasions. He remains one of the top flyweight prospects out of the UFC.
The New Jersey native holds a similar record to Jussier Formiga, who ranks fourth in the UFC flyweight division at 23-7. Formiga is a 15-fight veteran in the UFC, but Santella is accustomed to UFC talent too.
He defeated former UFC veteran Naoki Inoue by unanimous decision at CFFC 72 in February 2019. Santella also fought all three rounds in a decision loss to Aljamain Sterling at bantamweight in 2011.
If signed, Santella would join Joseph Benavidez and Formiga as two of the oldest fighters in the division. Both 35 year olds currently rank in the top four of the division.
Currently riding three-straight wins, the 35-year-old is trying to make signing him an easy decision
“I always try to stay positive when it comes to that, but it’s been so long. There’s been so much back-and-forth, I don’t know if they kind of lost interest because it started out with an age thing, then they hired somebody older than me. Then it was a record thing, then they hired a guy with a worse record than me. Then it was a finish rate, then they hired somebody who had a less finish rate than me. So I know what it is now with being able to talk to them face-to-face,” Santella said. “I’m pretty confident because at least they can’t say, ‘Hey, it’s because of this.’ That’s not saying it can’t come from the hire ups because if they don’t want to sign me, then they just don’t want to sign me.”
Santella is currently a free agent. The UFC and ONE Championships are at the top of his list, in that exact order. After waiting 12 years to sign with a major promotion, he understands nothing is a guarantee.
“It was just a personal goal for me to fight in the UFC. Then it became more of an obsession. That’s something lately I just had to let go,” Santella said. “Over time, I just realized a lot of it is politics and stuff like that, it’s not the best guys. Yeah, there are some of the best guys in the world fighting in the UFC, but in my weight class, definitely not.”
Santella is no longer with the CFFC and is searching for a new home. After talks with ONE, the promotion showed little interest for now.
He is open promotions like Titan Fighting Championships and Legacy Fighting Alliance. Nothing has come to fruition.
Santella is not getting any younger, but remains one of the best flyweights on the Northeast regional scene. He is currently riding a three-fight win streak.
Sean Santella is waiting for the next step. He is also waiting for the next call.
“I understand it’s a business and they want to make money and sell tickets. They don’t want me coming in and smashing one of their local guys that is a big ticket seller,” Santella said. “Then you have to fly me out every time they fight. I would have to defend the belt after I won it. They are not really into having the best guy be their champion.”