Q&A with Flyweight Sean “Shorty Rock” Santella

Shorty Rock
Source: Instagram @srock125

It’s not just the vivid pink hair that makes him stand out; when Sean “Shorty Rock” Santella (15-5-1, 1 NC) enters the cage, his fast-paced and technical fighting style demands the full attention of opponents and spectators alike. We expect to see nothing less from Sean in his upcoming CFFC title fight against Matt Lozano later this month. With his focus and determination stronger than ever, Shorty Rock is ready to prove once again why he is the #1-ranked flyweight in the Northeast. We had a few questions for the intrepid Santella regarding previous events, motivating figures in the combat sports scene, and his recommendations to those just starting out in the game.

Fighting Stance Media: This isn’t the first time you’ll be competing for a title. What have you learned from your former title fights?

Sean: I’ve learned a lot about myself in previous title fights. I’ve learned I can push through for 25 minutes, and even if I’m behind going into the fifth, I have the heart to gut it out.

FSM: Thinking back, which among all of your fights was your favorite? Why?

Sean: I’d have to say my favorite fight was against Dave Morgan. I had a lot of personal things going on in my life during camp and I was still able to mentally stay strong, push through, and get a finish. I always dreamed about choking someone out in a fight and I put him to sleep and got up, put both hands to the side of my face (as if I was sleeping) and fell to the mat. It was pretty awesome.

FSM: Do you have a favorite fighter who inspired you or influenced your journey as a martial artist?

Sean: I’m a home team kinda guy, so my two favorite fighters are Jim Miller and Frankie Edgar. I see the time and effort they put in and they give it their all every time they step in the cage. I’m taking a liking to Tony Ferguson as well. Love his style and mindset.

FSM: What is your favorite aspect of the fight game: The training and development of new skills? The bonds you form with other fighters and coaches? The fights themselves?

Sean: To be honest, I love all aspects of fighting, from testing your skills against someone else’s to the friendships you make to the blood, sweat, and tears. I put everything I have into fighting and it made me who I am. I wouldn’t ask for anything else!

FSM: With so many fights under your belt, do you have any words of wisdom for someone just getting started in MMA?

Sean: The advice I’d give someone just starting out in MMA would be to find a gym that has fighters their size and a training schedule that has fighter training. Also not to rush into a fight. It takes time and dedication. No need to rush until you’re ready.

As the head BJJ instructor at Miller Brothers MMA, “Professor Shorty Rock” also works hard to help others build confidence and excel in their martial arts journey. He’s sure to have plenty of students, fans, and fellow fighters cheering him on come December 17th. We look forward to an exciting and impressive performance from Sean as he gives it his all in the cage!

Sean Santella CFFC
Source: Cage Fury Fighting Championships Facebook

Follow Sean “Shorty Rock” Santella on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



Interview with CFFC Lightweight “Iron City” Mike Wilkins

Fighting Stance Media spoke with CFFC professional lightweight “Iron City” Mike Wilkins (7-2 MMA) at regional promotion Iron City Muay Thai Kickboxing. Wilkins attended the event as a coach from Stout Training Pittsburgh- Renzo Gracie Team for the gym’s six amateur kickboxers who were fighting on the card that night.

Wilkins shed some light on his experience as a multi-sport high school and college athlete and his transition into the world of mixed martial arts, explaining that MMA was “the next logical step” to continue to use what he essentially earned his degree in: wrestling. When asked to identify a quality he sees as most important for athletes starting out in MMA, he answered readily, “Without a doubt, consistency.”

Wilkins also shared with us his potential transition to the UFC and the strong possibility of a title fight for CFFC. Since the time of the interview it has been confirmed that Wilkins will be fighting for the lightweight title against Mike “Popezilla” Pope on December 17 at CFFC 62 in Philadelphia.

[Watch the full interview with Mike Wilkins above.]

A Heart-to-heart with Heavyweight Chi Lewis-Parry

Chi Lewis Parry

A self-described “professor of the go-getter mentality,” Chi Lewis-Parry doesn’t just talk the talk. Our FaceTime interview took place after he’d had a grueling day of training, and a cardio session followed immediately afterward—all in a day’s work.

My first encounter with the 6’9″ heavyweight was at Glory 33 New Jersey, in which he defeated his opponent by TKO in the second round. Chi’s imposing physique combined with his swaggering self-assurance makes him an enormous—and entertaining—presence. I mentioned to him that his brash post-fight interview that night had made me laugh. “People tend to like my antics and my talking,” he notes. “I talk from the cuff.” This is one of the reasons he prefers to fight in the states rather than back home in the UK, where he hasn’t fought since 2014. He finds that his forthright personality and playful boasting make him a better fit in the U.S.

Chi was a professional basketball player and a bouncer before he entered the combat sports scene. He worked at a club on a university campus with his good friend, a mixed martial artist in the early days of UFC. Seeing Chi’s potential as more than just a big guy who wanted to brawl, he offered to start training Chi before work. These initial training sessions involved putting down mats in a dance studio that had a large mirror and a decent amount of floor space…A makeshift gym that worked well enough. As his coach helped hone his natural ability, Chi was inspired to take fighting in a career direction. That was in 2006—ten years later, he’s now seeking a world title shot with Glory’s heavyweight champion, Rico Verhoeven.

Like all athletes, Chi’s exceptional style and precision didn’t develop overnight. He laughingly recounts the story of his K1 amateur debut back in 2011: “There was no game plan. It was literally me swinging for the fences. No technique, nothing, it was just two big dudes throwing.” The wild, uncalculated swinging resulted in a compound fracture in his hand during the first round. Despite the grisly injury, Chi wound up winning the fight by decision—an experience that taught him more about his fortitude than a fast, dramatic knockout would have. His 2015 Glory debut in Dubai went much differently, as he made history with a 25-second knockout in the first round. This impressive display announced his arrival as a formidable heavyweight. Since then, all of his finishes in Glory have been by stoppage.

Source: @chopper_chi Instagram

I was curious as to whether Chi’s experience in basketball gave him any sort of competitive edge in fighting. “Footwork!” was his response. “I’m not like a slow, sort of clumpy heavyweight. I like to be light and limber. I think that’s what separates me from the rest of the division.” Along with his quick feet, Chi packs a powerful punch, of which his opponents have learned to be wary. “I know if I hit anyone in the world with my right hand, I could put them out. It gives me a confidence that all I have to do is wait for that shot.”

Success as a fighter goes beyond physical prowess and endurance; there is a mental component as well, and a strong mind is something that needs to be trained just as much as a strong body. I asked Chi how he felt stepping into his very first fight so many years ago. He responded with typical good humor: “I think I was just overwhelmed with different expectations. I didn’t really know how I was going to feel. I just knew that I was bigger, I was better looking, and in better shape than the other guy.” Well, no argument there.

As for his mindset now, Chi doesn’t struggle with anxiety before getting in the ring. Any nerves or doubt vanish once he sees his opponent in the flesh. He knows how hard he works and nothing can shake the confidence that comes from relentless training. Admitting that I still get some pre-fight jitters, I asked if Chi had any advice for how to best prepare for competition. He offered some wisdom for all up-and-coming amateur fighters:

There’s nothing mediocre about Chi Lewis-Parry, who is living proof that a rock-solid work ethic is fundamental to achieving greatness; the swagger, however, comes separately.

Follow “Chopper” Chi Lewis Parry on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Reaping the Rewards of Hard Work: Paul Banasiak

Muay Thai Athlete
Paul “Reaper” Banasiak. Age: 23 Height: 6’4″ Weight class: 170b and 185b; Record: 23-3-1; 9x Champion, 2x World Champion and 2015 Team USA member, 4x American Muay Thai National Champion; Currently 4-0 in Thailand

When I asked Paul to describe himself as a fighter in just one word, his answer wasn’t quite what I was expecting:

“Adaptable. Whatever the situation may be…when it comes to competing against a specific fighter’s style, when it comes to life in general. Survival is directly correlated with the ability to adapt.”

Rather than choosing a word that brims with bravado, his self-assessment takes a refreshingly humble and intelligent approach. This seems to sum up the character of Paul Banasiak. He is motivated by passion, a competitive spirit, and the constant drive to improve—a drive that has served him well so far.

From Backyard Brawls to Madison Square Garden

Muay Thai Athlete
Muay Thai at Madison Square Garden: Paul Banasiak (right) versus Jason Van Oijen (left).

Born in Poland, Paul moved to the United States at the age of eight. His earliest “fights” took place in backyards just for fun, but after some time he was ready to learn real martial arts. It was in 2010 that he began training under a Sityodtong fighter who held practices in his garage. The training was brutal.

“My first day I was thrown in a shark tank for 10 minutes without any experience, a new fighter coming in fresh every minute. This continued every day that I trained; watching martial arts movies and having no real comparison, I thought this was the norm.”

Fast-forward a month and a half: Paul took his first fight, and a consuming passion for Muay Thai developed from there. Just four years later he would find himself fighting and knocking down one of America’s top Muay Thai boxers at an event in Madison Square Garden, and later embark on the World Championship journey with Team USA. He recalls being part of the energetic, hardworking, and dedicated team as one of the highlights of his athletic endeavors so far—that, and “traveling the world to do Muay Thai has been pretty cool too.”

Muay Thai Athlete

Transitioning to Thailand

One of the biggest questions I had for Paul was why he made the move to Thailand two months ago. He explained that not only was he looking for a new challenge, mentally and physically, but the energy and respect surrounding the sport in that country is something you can get nowhere else.


“When you walk out as a fighter on a serious show in Thailand, you are respected for your work, you are respected for your technique, and most importantly, appreciated by the fans. It’s a complete presentation of the sport of Muay Thai…You feel as though the people watching you understand you, and that’s what we all look for: to be appreciated and understood.”

Paul finds that the path he has chosen receives less acceptance and understanding back home. Though his friends are now a huge part of his support team, he was initially met with doubt and low expectations; this only fueled his determination to “grind in the dark and let the results speak for themselves.” He also reports that his relationship with family has suffered through his endeavors. As a top student who grew up under the influence of a mother who was a teacher (and now a clinical instructor), Paul’s Muay Thai pursuits are largely met with confusion and questioning. When asked about the negative side of his martial arts journey: “The tears I’ve seen in people’s faces, the worry it has caused in those close to me when they think about what I do.”


The Rise of Muay Thai Athlete

It was through the Muay Thai Athlete social media channel that I first discovered Paul’s motivational articles and videos, so naturally I had to ask how the website first came about. He attributes the start of the website to his lifelong habit of filming the hobbies he pursued, from snowboarding and skateboarding to eventually martial arts.

“I study myself day in and day out: my physical movement, my demeanor, my mind. Muay Thai Athlete has been my vehicle to travel and to communicate with the world, to express these studies and experiences…The people I have met and connections I have made through this platform have been MuayThaiAthlete.com’s most rewarding aspect.”

Muay Thai Athlete
Some of the Reaper’s support team.

There has been some collaboration along the way. Paul gives credit to his good friend, “Muay Thai Guy” Sean Fagan, for tempering his overly analytical and calculated approach when it comes to creating the content for his website. He also cites Sean as being the catalyst in putting in the extra hours required to make his project take off.

“Witnessing me attempt to live my life in a limitless fashion, he offered to guide me through the process of making it into something serious…We are very different people that have a similar mindset on life which only complements the work that we do.”

What is the work that they do? Paul and Sean’s mission is to help others evolve past their limitations, whether they are aspiring fighters or not. They do this through informational and empowering articles, blogs, videos, and the Muay Thai Guys podcast. And in return, Paul draws his motivation from the messages and emails he receives from people of all walks of life.

“Their stories have given me different ways of viewing the world. So, going back to the question about motivation—your stories have been my motivation.”

Filming and pad work on Ko Pha Ngan, an island in the Gulf of Thailand. Pictured: Sean Fagan, Namsaknoi, and Paul Banasiak.

To learn more about Paul “Reaper” Banasiak and his Muay Thai journey, visit his website and follow him on social media.