Junior Dos Santos is a man on a mission.
Since joining the UFC roster in late 2008, he's ran roughshod on the heavyweight division. In succession, he has knocked out the following contenders: Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko Cro Cop, and Gilbert Yvel.
The next man on the list is Gabriel Gonzaga, whom he will face on Sunday, March 21 in Broomfield, Colorado. A win would move him up another spot in the pecking order, and quite possibly, into a number one contender match-up against fellow up-and-comer Cain Velasquez.
"Cigano" took time out of his schedule to discuss his martial arts origins, Gonzaga, being nicknamed after a soap opera character and his thoughts on potentially facing current champion Brock Lesnar.
Check it out:
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): I wanted to start by asking you about your youth as many of us do not know much about your martial arts background. How and why did you get into martial arts?
Junior Dos Santos: My start in martial arts was in jiu-jitsu. I started training jiu-jitsu when I was 19. My coach Yuri Carlton thought I had a lot of potential. He then started showing me some stand up techniques and one year later I fought in my first MMA fight and won. After that I went on to train boxing under Luiz Dorea.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Do you have a hero, martial artist, or mixed martial artist you look up to?
Junior Dos Santos: Rodrigo Nogueira is my mentor both in MMA and in life. He is the one that believed in me and helped me all along the way.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How did you get the nickname "Cigano?"
Junior Dos Santos: I used to have long hair and at the time there was a popular soap opera in Brazil, and one of the characters was a gypsy and had long hair. My jiu-jitsu training partners started calling me "Cigano," which means "Gypsy."
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): You are facing Gabriel Gonzaga this Sunday. He has to know you have been dominating your opponents with your boxing skills. As a result, do you expect him to try to come out and take you down in order to avoid your hands?
Junior Dos Santos: I think he will be surprised by my speed on my feet, but I am prepared to go where the fight takes us.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): We have not seen your ground game yet in the UFC because you haven't needed it yet. Are you confident if the fight goes to the mat as Gonzaga is a black belt in jiu-jitsu?
Junior Dos Santos: I am very confident in my jiu-jitsu skills if the fight goes to the ground.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): How will this fight end? Do you have an official prediction for the fight?
Junior Dos Santos: I will be always looking for the knock out, but I don't want to make any predictions.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Where do you feel like a victory puts you in the heavyweight title picture?
Junior Dos Santos: I believe it puts me up with the top heavyweights, and I would welcome a title shot after a victory over Gonzaga.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): A lot of fans and media personnel I have spoken with recently have stated their desire to see you fight Cain Velasquez if you are fortunate enough to come away with a victory over Gonzaga. Is that a fight you would like?
Junior Dos Santos: I don't pick my opponents, but I would be ready to fight Velasquez.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): The heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar has been a dominant champion so far. Are you the man to dethrone Lesnar? How do you feel you matchup with him?
Junior Dos Santos: I feel that I am faster than Lesnar. I think he would be surprised. It would be a good fight.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Every fighter has weaknesses. What would you say is one of Lesnar's?
Junior Dos Santos: His ground game is probably his biggest weakness.
Derek Bolender (MMAmania.com): Thank you very much for your time and best of luck on fight night.
Derek Bolender is a frequent MMAmania.com contributor. He is also a syndicated writer to FoxSports.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/DerekMMAwriter.