After an unceremonious release from the UFC in 2021, former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos is getting his career back on track. ‘Cigano’ is expected to face two-time boxing title challenger Kubrat Pulev under the modified Triad Combat rules sometime in early 2022.
These days, dos Santos is intent on putting his UFC past behind. In a recent interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the 37-year-old Brazilian talked about his renewed sense of motivation heading into a new chapter of his prizefighting career.
“Now, I’m training again. Man, I’m running every day. I wake up at, like, 5:30 in the morning to go for boxing training. It’s something that I didn’t do for a long, long time. I’m doing abs every day,” he said.
“I’m feeling great with how things are going now, and it brought me back (to) that good energy. The happiness to be doing something that I love to do. I love to do this, I love to fight. But I wasn’t enjoying it anymore because of the pressure, because of the responsibilities that they were putting on myself. It’s strange.
“I have that smile on my face again, that happiness on my heart that I can move forward.”
Pulev already made his Triad Combat debut with a knockout win over another ex-UFC champion in Frank Mir. While this may have stirred up some concern from fans, Dos Santos feels he’s gotten a second wind in his career.
But if he does come up short in the Pulev bout, dos Santos says he may have to start thinking about his fighting future.
“I’m thankful for the comments and for the worry. But this time, I talked to myself and to my family to think about everything (and) decide what to do,” he said.
“I’m 37 years old now, and I was thinking about stopping. Maybe it’s not for me anymore, but that’s not my truth. My truth is I love this thing, and I still can do it. If you go to the gym and see me training, man, I’m getting better.
“This fight now will show all those people — all the people that support me and those who doesn’t — this fight will show everybody who I am for real. Because I’m feeling that way. I’m feeling happy.
“And if I don’t perform well, then it’s going to be the reality. Then it’s going to be my, kind of. ‘OK, it’s for real. I’m not performing very well anymore.’”
Dos Santos left the UFC with a 21-9 win-loss record. He last saw action at UFC 256 in December 2020 against current interim champion Ciryl Gane and lost via second-round TKO.
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