Thiago Santos on fighting Jon Jones with torn ligaments: 'I will never stop'

UFC 239 had many astonishing moments. Welterweight Jorge Masvidal knocked out Ben Askren in fewer than five seconds with a flying knee; bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes landed a head kick to put Holly Holm down; and Jan Blachowicz sent Luke Rockhold to the mat with a vicious left hook to spoil his light heavyweight debut.

Nevertheless, no one managed to explain how in the world light heavyweight Thiago Santos went the distance against Jon Jones -- on one leg, courtesy of a torn ACL, MCL and PCL, as well as a meniscus tear on his left leg.

"Marreta" Santos spoke to ESPN and revealed details about the injuries, how they affected him during the fight and most importantly, how in the world he continued to kick Jones with the injured leg.

ESPN: When did you get hurt?

Santos: That happened when I tried to leg kick him [with 19 seconds left in the first round], but I missed. When I kick, I put everything I have on [the kicks]. I twisted my knee instead.

ESPN: Did you know the severity of the injury right away? What did your coach say?

Santos: I knew something serious happened. In the first intermission, I spoke to my coach [Conan Silveira]. It was like this...

Santos: I have to tell you something.
Silveira: Go ahead.
Santos: I screwed up my knee.
Silveira: Is it serious enough to stop the fight?
Santos: I will never stop.

ESPN: How did the injury affect you during the fight?

Santos: I just couldn't put any weight [on] my left leg and I couldn't get hit as well. It would be impossible to sustain the pain if he kicked me there. I had to go southpaw the whole fight, protecting this leg. I couldn't even kick with the right, because my left leg wasn't strong enough to hold it. The only thing I could do was to continue to kick with my left leg.

ESPN: I can't imagine the pain of kicking with an injured leg.

Santos: Absolutely. But that was the only thing I could do, and that's why I injured my other leg, because of the weight.

ESPN: Do you think that not being able to move had the judges thinking Jones was dominating the fight?

Santos: I fell sometimes -- two or three [times] because of the knee. I think the judges got a little carried away by that. People asked me after the fight about the knockdowns ... I answered, 'What are you talking about? I didn't suffer any knockdowns.' There was [an] elbow that hit me, but it wasn't a knockdown. There was also a jab that checked me, but I fell because of my knee, not because of his jab, come on. I think that everything related to this took a part in the judges' count.

ESPN: Would it be different if you had not injured the knee?

Santos: 100 percent. I'm not saying I would win, I can't say that. But I would have hit him more, attacked more. I would have fought a better fight for sure.

ESPN: Were you expecting to get the decision?

Santos: When the fight was over, no, I wasn't expecting [to win]. I still think I touched him more, but my knee got in the way. I thought he would win.

ESPN: Did you get to "shock the world" as you said you would do?

Santos: I don't know, maybe I did. I'm happy to be this guy that wants to compete, doesn't want to lose. I was so close ... but stuff like this could happen to anyone. I was upset, but also happy because of the message I transmitted to the world.

ESPN: Overall, are you happy or sad with the outcome?

Santos: Happy because of the performance. I did everything I could and I left everything I had in the Octagon.

ESPN: Jones himself had nothing but high praise for you after the fight. How did you react to that?

Santos: I was glad. As I said before the fight, he is not unbeatable. He is human like everybody else. His opponent cannot be afraid. I wasn't and I executed the game plan. The injury got in the way, but I fought a good fight.

ESPN: Do you want a rematch?

Santos: First and most important, I need to go through [the injuries] I sustained in this fight. I have to make a full recovery because I only want to come back 100 percent. And when the time comes, it could be him or anybody else. But right now I'm focused on the surgery, recovery ... I'll do everything the doctors want me to so I can come back in perfect conditions.

ESPN: How is the public reacting? I know you have been getting many messages.

Santos: Even before the fight, I got many messages. Many trusted me [to win], many did not. That's part of the game. I think the most important thing is that I was able to transmit a good message for young boys and girls in Brazil -- don't give up. I was happy to do that. I said it before, the belt is the symbol of the champion, but it does not define one. I'm a blessed dude and for that I thank God.