Junior dos Santos became the UFC heavyweight champion with a quick knockout win over Cain Velasquez in 2011, but a pair of losses to the American Kickboxing Academy product put him in a tough spot in the division.
With Velasquez as champion, “Cigano” would hardly get a title shot anytime soon, but the scenario changed when Fabricio Werdum captured the gold in 2015. A rough loss to Alistair Overeem, a year after a hard-fought decision victory over Stipe Miocic, put the Brazilian down in the rankings one more time, and questions about his health became common.
“Cigano” engaged in wars in four of his last five UFC fights, including his wins over Miocic and Mark Hunt, but he doesn’t think his losses to Velasquez were as brutal as it seemed.
“Yes, there were some tough fights for me,” dos Santos told Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour. “I took a lot of damage, but I get swollen very easy and I get cut very easy too. For the people that were watching the fight, I was looking worse than I really was, you know? Those fights were pretty hard for me, but I’m learning with everything. This one now, with Alistair Overeem, was something very, very strange for me. That’s hard, that’s really hard part of the game.”
At age 32, dos Santos is the youngest fighter in the top 10 of the UFC heavyweight division. With an 11-3 record inside the Octagon, “Cigano” envisions a long career ahead of him.
“(I will fight) as long as I can, you know? I wanna have a long career, for sure,” he said. “I know I’m not showing for everybody everything that I got to show, so I’m working on these things. As soon as I find myself in the Octagon again, I’ll be okay to put on a good performance and get back to my winning streak.
“I wanna fight as long as I can. I wanna be like Randy Couture, who fought until he was 47 years old or something. I wanna be one of those guys.”
Dos Santos (17-4) returns to the Octagon on April 10, facing Ben Rothwell in the main event of UFC Fight Night 86 in Zagreb, Croatia.