Retirements in MMA don’t seem all that definitive. New names are always being added to the list of fighters who eventually return to competition months or years after announcing the end of their careers — but Evangelista Santos won’t be one of those.
“Cyborg” retired from the sport after suffering a devastating injury in his welterweight bout with Michael Page in July 2016, fracturing his skull courtesy of a Page flying knee.
Days after the loss and a seven-hour surgery, Santos told MMA Fighting that he was adamant he would eventually return to the cage. A few months later, though, he decided it was time to move on, officially announcing his retirement in January 2017.
After that, “Cyborg” returned to Curitiba, where he made a name for himself at Chute Boxe, and taught classes there for a year. The 40-year-old Brazilian then moved back to Houston earlier this year and has since made a living teaching amateurs and professionals in his gym in Texas.
The money Santos makes through classes is nowhere near what he was paid as a MMA fighter, especially for someone who fought four times in his last year as a professional athlete in Bellator and LFA, but he’s not in it for the money.
“I had the privilege of doing 50 fights, and money never was my biggest motivation to fight,” Santos told MMA Fighting. “I’ve always fought for the love for competition, the challenge. That’s what motivated me. I’ve always fought for any money, never choosing who I would fight or for how much.
“I leave the cage with my head held high. I have no intentions to return,” he continued. “I would really love to, but everything has its time. I think my time to contribute to the sport inside the ring is over. I have no plans to compete. My projects are outside the ring now.”
The longtime veteran faced talented opposition throughout his 19-year MMA career, including Nick Diaz, Gegard Mousasi, Mauricio Rua, Siyar Bahadurzada, Francis Carmont, Michal Materla and Melvin Manhoef, and hopes to pass along the knowledge to the future generation.
”I love being involved with athletes and regular people,” Santos said. “I’ve always taught classes even when I still was an active fighter. I’m a black belt in jiu-jitsu, kickboxing, luta livre and muay thai, and I believe I have plenty of knowledge to share with people, and I want to apply that to the new generation. I’ve contributed inside the ring, and now I’ll look to the future.
”If I had someone like me early in my journey, I’m sure I would have accomplished everything I have in half of the time. This is what I want to do, get all this knowledge and teach the youth, plant the seed. MMA is the fastest-rising sport in the world and I want to create champions, form better people through the sport. You can change your life and many people’s lives through sports.”
From his cockfighting days to mixed martial arts to full-time coaching now, “Cyborg” has a message for those who aspire to become MMA stars.
”When I was 15 years old and told people I would fight in Japan and in the United States, they laughed at me, and that gave me strength to keep going and prove them wrong,” Santos said. “This is what I want to teach people. Believe in God and have faith in your dreams. If you work hard, you will get there.”