Collecting arms and taking names: Bellator's Giva Santana talks his origins, movies and golf (MMAmania exclusive)

Giva Santana (left) doing what he does best against Daryl Cobb at Bellator 53 last October. Photo via Bellator

When Giva Santana steps into the cage tomorrow night (March 16, 2012) at Bellator 61 against Bruno Santos, he'll be looking for every opportunity to finish the fight, most likely with his "go-to" move.

The armbar.

"The Arm Collector" has taken home more than his share of elbows throughout his nearly seven year mixed martial arts (MMA) career that number likely exponentially increases when you include his wealth of Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) tournaments.

The Team Oyama BJJ instructor spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission this past weekend.

In part one of our interview, he talked about Ronda Rousey and balancing both coaching and fighting. Today, he talks about how he got involved in mixed martial arts, what his family thinks about it and even his budding golf game.

Check it out:

Ben Thapa: How did you end up in Irvine, California out of all the places in the world? What was your process from where you were born to Irvine?

Giva Santana: I was competing in Brazil, fighting and I came to the US before 1999 and was in Seattle. The first time here was 1996 and I loved California since the first time I came here but I never had a chance to come back. I went to Seattle and other place for American competitions, jiu-jitsu competitions. I didn't like it in Seattle so I went back home. I had a friend here, Juliano Prado who used to be my teammate and he had a gym going in here and I came to him for help for a little bit and I met Colin Oyama and started working. That time, he had Rampage in his camps and those guys and I helped with the jiu-jitsu a little bit. We started talking and i started working my way to move over here.

Ben Thapa: So what led you into MMA?

Giva Santana: I first came for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. That's what makes me move. That's my passion. I was helping Rampage for a fight and I was finishing college in Brazil for kinesiology and I was like, "Man, I think I'm gonna fight MMA," and when I thought about MMA, I was finishing college, finishing my papers and someone was like, "Hey, I've got this fight in Korea. It's a heavyweight tournament. Four fights in one night. Would you like to go?" I was like, "Ehh, let me think about it for a couple days. It's heavyweight and my idea was just to go into Korea.

At the time, Pride was the big thing in MMA and I'm like, "Korea is next to Japan, there must be people watching there. Heavyweight is not my weight but I can put up one good fight and just try to beat someone up, tap them out and maybe I can get invited to my weight in Pride or something like that." But I went to Korea as a heavyweight. It was four fights in one night and that's how I got my start. When I start and when I won the tournament, I realized how important it was for me to train strikes and I went to California to help my friend out who's an excellent Muay Thai coach so I decided to stay longer. I learned Muay Thai with him and wrestling and that's how it all started. We have a gym in Irvine and it's pretty successful now.

Ben Thapa: So you started your career at heavyweight? How did you work your way down to lighter weight?

Giva Santana: No, I never be heavyweight. My weight, the maximum that I weighed at the time was like 205. I went to a heavyweight competition being my natural weight without cutting at 205. I still ended up finishing everyone with the armbar, just the last guy gave me a hard time, beat me up for a little bit and I ended up getting him at the end of the first round. It was big guys and I ended up tapping him out and I realized that I had to work strikes. I can't remember who else fought four fights in one night. It's pretty crazy. The first fight was by decision, but all the others were by armbar in the first round.

Ben Thapa: How did your family take this move to MMA? Did they know about this? Were you open about this?

Giva Santana: Nah, I had to. I had to lie to my mom because she doesn't like violence. I said, "Hey listen, I'm going to Korea for a jiu-jitsu tournament," and she's like, "Really? In Korea?" and I'm like, "Yeah." I end up, the last fight, the guy beat me up pretty bad because he had good boxing and at that point, I didn't have any stand-up so he beat me up pretty bad. He messed up my face and I came back to the US for one week to heal up and when I went to Brazil, it was scary. My mom don't like violence.

After I win, I called her and said, "I'm okay. I fought MMA. I'm talking to you. I'm fine, I'm okay," and she's like, "Really? How could you do that without telling me?" and I'm like, "If I told you, you'd never have let me come, you'd be stressing." But nowadays, she understands. She supports me a lot. My mom really supports me but if you ask her, "Do you like him fighting?" she's gonna say, "Nope." If you ask her, "Do you want him to stop?" she's gonna say, "Yes," but I love what I'm doing.

Ben Thapa: You're busy with training and teaching quite a bit. What do you do during those brief amounts of free time?

Giva Santana: Man I don't have much time to entertain myself. I like good food. I like movies, I watch a lot of movies to help my English so I learn more because when I first came here, I didn't have much friends and I sleep at the gym for a while and I had the video and I was watching movies and I got into it. That's my hobby, watching movies I like. I'm starting to try to get into golf but it's a hard sport. It's frustrating but I'm trying to get into golf. It's not fun yet. I'm too bad. Unless I get better, I'll tell you when it's fun. Right now, it's not fun.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's your handicap when you golf?

Giva Santana: My handicap? I don't even know how those things. People tell me, "Hey, are you par 3, par 4?" I'm like, "Don't tell me that, just let me hit. Just let me hit right now. I've got to learn how to hit. Then I start learning about the rules later. Right now, I just want to get that nice hit, that noise. My friends, they invite me to golf but I just want to go to the range because I slow them down too much. With all my training, I don't have enough time.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What movie helped you learn English the best, the one you've watched the most?

Giva Santana: Man, I watch a lot of movies. I think one of those movies I watched a lot was Pirates of Caribbean. There was that Will Smith movie, Ali and Hitch. I like Eva Mendes so I watch that movie a lot (laughs). I like any kind of movies. If it's got a good story, I'll be watching. Lord of the Rings, all those big series. One weekend I was at my gym the whole weekend and I watched all six Star Wars movies in a row, just practicing. Before, it took me like three hours to watch a movie. I'd have to stop, read the subtitles, see what the guy is saying and people were like, "You're crazy," but I was never in a school to learn English and that's how I learned a little bit.

Ben Thapa: I have to ask you. Is a good golf shot, does that feel the same as a good armbar to you or are they different things?

Giva Santana: Oh no, different things, different things. But I tell you, when you hit the golf ball that perfect sound like "Piiiiiing!" that thing is amazing. It's a good feeling. I don't get hurt or anything when I miss it. I just put the ball down and hit again. In jiu-jitsu, it's alive. The ball is right there and you just have to hit it right or wrong but with an armbar, there's another guy on the other side trying to move from it, escape from it and I've got to make work. It's a different feeling but it's all good feeling. When you get an armbar in a fight, it's like "mission accomplished" so it's good.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you picture this fight against Bruno Santos and you think about victory, what do you see?

Giva Santana: Oh man I'm still submission. I'm thinking about how I'm gonna win and it's gonna be a big surprise submission. I feel really good. It rained hard and I did everything I could. I'm telling you, I'm thinking about victory. I truly believe in God and I did everything I had to do to win this fight. I leave the will in God's hands. I'm not picky. If I pinch his nose and he taps, I'll take it. I wanna win. The body has two legs, two arms and one neck, a lot of stuff to work on. The armbar is just the easy way. Maybe when I stop fight, I'll show the secrets around.

Giva would like to thank God, his mom, friends and family, his teammates, Lotus Club and the black belts that teach at the gym when he has to stop teaching for training. He'd also like to thank all his sponsors, Bellator, Team Oyama, his management team Iridium and all the fans that cheer for him. You can follow him on Twitter @GivaSantana.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

Will Santana add another arm to his collection tomorrow night when he faces Bruno Santos? What movies would you suggest he checks out in his spare time?

Sound off!

To listen to the complete audio of our interview with Giva Santana, click here (interview begins at 1:31:00 mark)

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