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BRAVE CF star Luan Santiago recalls the struggles he went through as a youngster

LockerRoom Team
29 April 2020

Former BRAVE Combat Federation Lightweight world champion Luan “Miau” Santiago is one of the promotion’s most beloved athletes, with his outgoing personality and prone-to-highlight performances.

With a world title on his record, several finishes under his belt, and fights in different countries for BRAVE CF, Santiago joined a distinct group of athletes in the top-tier of Mixed Martial Arts. But things weren’t so sweet since day one.

The unlikely professional career of Luan Santiago started in his hometown of Salvador, Brazil, where the young “Miau” joined a taekwondo gym in order to deal with the bullies of his class and neighborhood, which up to that point his older sister had been protecting him from as she could.

One thing led to another and at age 18 Luan Miau made his professional MMA debut. The prospect quickly gained momentum in his home state of Bahia, and the whole Brazilian northeast region, collecting wins and knockouts.

His first coach, Leonardo Pateira, then recommended Luan to Cristiano Marcello, leader of Curitiba’s CM System, 2,500 km away from Salvador. Keen to make the move and sure of how important it could be for his potential development, Santiago was assisted by his coaches, who chipped in some cash to help him cover the travel expenses.

“I had nothing but the clothes on my back. I went to Curitiba with 200 Reais (roughly 60 US Dollars at the time), my flip flops, shorts, and a tank top. That was it. To make matters worst, Curitiba is a known cold place but I didn’t have cold weather clothes or any other clothes to be fair, so, you can imagine how bad my first days over there were (laughs)”, Miau recalled.

Miau struggles paid off, as his first months under CM System’s banner saw new wins and more highlight knockouts. The challenges never made Luan less resolute, though, as he was sure he was meant for the big show.

“I knew there was something great out there for me, I knew I’d get a world title”, Santiago said. “That’s why when I look back nowadays I can understand how those moments were important, as much as they were hard. I’m grateful for all I’ve been through and all the people that helped me”.

Standing out at the national level, Luan won the “Brazilian Fighter of the Year” award in 2016. A few months later, in early 2017, Santiago signed with BRAVE Combat Federation. Less than two years later, Miau was in hostile territory, at his opponent’s home, in Jordan, knocking out the then champion Abdul Kareem Al-Selwady in brutal fashion to claim his much-awaited BRAVE CF world title.


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