Brian Stann on Facing Santiago Instead of Silva: 'I Got a Better Fight'

Brian Stann said he wanted to fight Wanderlei Silva after his win over Chris Leben at UFC 125.

The UFC liked that idea and booked the fight for UFC 130 in May.

One problem: Silva didn't want to take the fight.

Whether it was because Silva had still not healed up from knee surgery or didn't want to fight Stann because, as he tweeted, "I respect so much ... army guys," remains unclear. What we do know is Stann (10-3) is now fighting Jorge Santiago (23-8) at UFC 130, while Silva got his original wish of fighting Leben at UFC 132.

"I buy his reason because I don't see Wanderlei ever having to lie to anybody about anything," Stann said when asked on Monday's episode of The MMA Hour if he believed Silva didn't want to fight simply because he didn't want to get booed. "He's got nothing to prove for the rest of his life, as far as I'm concerned, especially in this sport.

" ... For every one Brian Stann fan, there's about 50 Wanderlei Silva fans across the world. He's an international superstar. There's no way he would have gotten booed coming into that fight. But things happen. As fighters get older and they've accomplished more, who knows what's going through his head or what he's got going on in his personal life right now. I don't know those things.

"Any time that I have actually met Wanderlei, which is very few, he's just been an amazing guy. He's been a champion. So I certainly didn't take it as an insult or anything of the sort. I just took it as it wasn't the right time or the place, and I knew I was kind of even rolling the dice to get that fight anyways."

And while Stann was initially disappointed he didn't get chance to fight the legend Silva, he is thrilled with the way things turned out.

"At the end of the day, I got a better fight. I love Wanderlei, he's the guy that I said since the WEC that would be my dream fight just because I always loved watching him fight, but let's face it, Jorge Santiago is ranked in the top 10 for the last two years. This is a better fight for me."

Stann is 2-0 since dropping down to middleweight in August. He once held the WEC light heavyweight title, but he admits the win over Leben in January took his career to a whole other level.

"When I was in the WEC, people were kind of force marketing me. I was shoved down their throat, even thought I really didn't have any fights. That was certainly not my choice, the organization was new, I had a story, and they needed people to watch this new network and new organization. So they did that, and people basically waved the BS flag immediately and said, 'Hey, wait a minute, this guy has two fights, how good can he really be?'

"Now I've been tried and tested. A lot of people didn't think I would last in the UFC. I had to have a very fast learning curve, obviously my camp and my teammates have helped me with that. But beating a guy like Chris Leben, I think that was the fight that proved, Ok, wait a minute, this guy has skills, this guy is going to contend, and people are believers now."

The UFC middleweight division is wide open right now, and there isn't a clear line of contenders after Yushin Okami. A win by either Stann or Santiago, who went 11-1 since leaving the UFC in 2006, could easily propel them into title shot territory.

"I know Santiago wanted to get a title shot right away when he came over due to being a world champion, and being a champion in Sengoku is certainly justifiable a world champion due to the competition he's facing. You're right, it is wide open. When Okami leaves, everybody else there has already fought [Silva] and lost, so the UFC has to decide, do they want to have a rematch or, if I can get passed Jorge Santiago and maybe Michael Bisping is knocking at the door, Nate Marquardt is looking to move to 170, so there's a lot of question marks there, and they will need a new face."

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