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Samara Santos’ Winding Road To A World Title Shot

Samara “Marituba” Santos (12-5-1) may not have the luxury of easing her way into ONE Championship, but a big victory in her promotional debut will result in World Title gold.

On Saturday, 8 September, the Brazilian will challenge ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion “The Panda” Xiong Jing Nan (15-1) for the coveted title in the main event of ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, which takes place in Shanghai, China.

Before the 25-year-old heads to the Baoshan Arena in Shanghai to meet the reigning strawweight queen in her homeland, take this opportunity to learn more about the Brazilian challenger.

From The Country To The City

Samara Santos would change her family's life with a win over Xiong Jing Nan.

Samara Santos would forever change her family's life with a win over Xiong Jing Nan.Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast

Posted by ONE Championship on Sunday, August 26, 2018

Born in the small Brazilian town of Aurora do Pará, Santos lived with her father, mother, and three brothers. Her parents worked long days in the farming and agriculture industry to provide for their four children.

As a result, the kids rarely got to spend much time with their mom and dad.

“My parents were present at home,” she begins. “But back then, they would work in the fields since we lived in the country, and they would only come back at night.”

The siblings fended for themselves with each other’s support, but it was not an easy life for the family. They relocated from town to town in search of better opportunities.

“We had a hard time,” she continues. “So we moved to Concórdia, which was a slightly larger town. It did not work out well there, so we moved again to Tailândia, and I grew up there until I was 15.”

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Santos found herself more comfortable in the faster-paced surroundings, and despite living in a busier environment, enjoyed more bonding time with her family.

“When we moved, my parents would spend more time with us,” she says. “I prefer to live in the city — there are more things to do, and more people to know.”

It was not always simple, but the close-knit Santos household stayed together, even when they made another move to Marituba, the city from which the athlete’s nickname is derived.

When new arrivals came — namely, her nieces — the numbers swelled in their humble abode, but they always found a way to make it work.

Life Imitates Art

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The move to Marituba opened the Brazilian’s eyes to an opportunity she did not know existed — a professional career in martial arts.

As a youngster, she idolized martial arts stars on the big screen. However, becoming a professional martial artist seemed more like a pipe dream than a vocation.

“I used to watch a lot of martial arts movies, and I liked them,” Santos says.

“We did not have a TV, so I used to watch them at a neighbor’s house. I wanted to be like them, but I did not even know that being a fighter could be a profession.”

Fortunately, in 2013, she stumbled upon the first step of her dream.

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Friends in the city were part of a social project that offered different activities, and she tagged along to try formal martial arts training, given her prior interest. 

“I went, and I enjoyed it, and I have been here ever since,” she says.

“Marituba” began in Muay Thai at the project in the ‘House of Culture,’ where she met Coach Formiga. Intrigued by the different styles available, she started training at Formiga Top Team, where she studied Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well.

Soon, she heard the call of the cage, and started to train for mixed martial arts competition.

The more Santos progressed in training, the more she caught the eye of her coach, and eventually, he offered her the chance to make her professional debut.

In April 2015, she entered the cage and picked up a third-round TKO win. From there, competition would be her main focus.

The Long Trek To Success

Despite having found a sport she loved and coaches she trusted, the journey has not been without its obstacles.

Santos had a flawless 2015, as she won her first five bouts. Clearly, she was on the right path, but there were many times where the only way she could even get to the gym for her training was to walk.

At night, the trek home could be particularly unsafe.

“I ride to training by bike every day. It belongs to my father, so when he takes it, I have to walk,” the Brazilian explains.

“Sometimes I have to leave class early, because at night, it is dangerous to go where I live. But sometimes, Coach Formiga will pay for a taxi for me so I do not have to go alone.”

For success, “Marituba” is willing to bike, ride, or even wade her way onto the mats.

“There is electricity, but no basic sanitation [in town],” she adds. “Sometimes, when it rains, it floods the whole street, so we have a hard time walking.”

Nothing has been able to stop her so far, and that is proof of her dedication to the cause. Only the most committed athletes get the opportunity to become a World Champion, and Santos proves it, day in and day out.

A Shanghai Showdown

The motivation to keep trudging through dangerous streets comes from a desire to help her family.

Santos knows she can help to provide for her parents and siblings if she is successful in mixed martial arts, and the only way she will get better is by refining her skills in the gym.

The girl born to a humble rural family sees a path to greatness that could elevate everybody around her. She is already a Salvaterra Marajo Fight Champion, but taking ONE Championship gold would really see her career take off.

“I want to make money to get them out of here — where we live — and give them a better life,” she explains. “My parents are already aging, and they still work to support me, so I want to reciprocate what they have done for me throughout their lives.”

Being signed to The Home Of Martial Arts is an exceptional achievement in itself, but if the Brazilian can defeat the ONE Women’s Strawweight World Champion and leave Shanghai with the belt, then her stock will skyrocket.

“I know if I win the fight, and get many victories, then I will make the money I need to support my family.”

The challenger is motivated by both necessity and love, and that makes for a powerful combination. By winning at ONE: BEYOND THE HORIZON, she can make all of her dreams a reality.

Shanghai | 8 September | LIVE and FREE on the ONE Super App: http://bit.ly/ONESuperApp | TV: Check local listings for global broadcast