Sophomore Jordan Santiago is just like most students at the university with one difference — he fights in amateur mixed-martial arts. Santiago recently competed in a tournament in Benton Harbor, Michigan where he won his match after three rounds by unanimous decision.
Santiago has been doing MMA for a little over a year, and says he loves the pure competition of it along with the personal responsibility that MMA brings to the table.
“ I’ve played lots of team sports and a loss is shared by the whole team,” he said, “But in MMA, the weight rests solely on your shoulders.”
When he’s back at home in Elkhart, Indiana, Santiago trains at Steve’s Gym, a studio that trains students in MMA as well as more traditional martial arts such as Taekwondo and Aikido. He loves the atmosphere of the gym. Where around twenty students train, half a dozen focus exclusively on MMA, he said.
Santiago sees the gym as a family, which correlates with his coach Joe Alexander’s recent decision to become a Christian.
“My coach puts God first in everything, then family, education, and lastly fighting,” Santiago said. “God is always first.”
Here at school, Santiago has found it more difficult to train than when he is at his home gym, he said. Without a coach, he is left to train on his own. Recently he has found some Wright Hall residents who are able to spar with him to for practice. Each of them comes with a different set of skills that challenge him in different areas.
“When I spar with my coach,” he said, “he’s able to put more into it than the guys here.”
Santiago still trains every day, sparring with his partners 3 to 4 times a week. He spends other days conditioning, but when leading up to a fight, he goes home almost every weekend to train with his coach.
Although MMA is a sport, Santiago says he doesn’t fight for the competition. His whole purpose for getting into MMA is to be a witness he to people, he said. Along with his coach, Santiago has been working to bring his training partners to church to show the love of Christ to them whenever he’s around them.
“Every event I go to is rough,” he said. “My purpose is to be a light.”
Santiago said he has his eyes set on his next tournament, which will be Feb. 6. He plans to compete for the second time in Benton Harbor, Michigan, but is striving even highe. He hopes to qualify for the Arnold Classic, traditionally a weight lifting event that has recently added MMA as an event.