Junior dos Santos still with Team Nogueira, calls move to Nova Uniao part of his 'evolution' as a fighter

USA TODAY Sports

Though Junior dos Santos is currently training with Nova Uniao, "Cigano" says he is -- and always will be -- a part of Team Nogueira.

No trouble in paradise.

That's the message former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos is sending out after a report (read it here) surfaced a few days ago that said "Cigano" had abandoned his longtime camp, Team Nogueira, to train with rival camp Nova Uniao.

While the move was indeed made, Junior says he is still a member of Team Nogueira, he just wanted to try something new in order to evolve as a mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.

His words to Globo (via Bloody Elbow):

"Things were too slow. I wasn't feeling good in my way of evolving as a professional. Then I decided moving to Rio. Observing the world of MMA, it's clear to all that professor Dedé Pederneiras is one of the best coaches. There is no question of why he every year competes for the prize of the best in the world. He is a guy who I think can aggregate a lot to my game, not just with gameplan, but also for being a intelligent guy. I see the instructions that he pass to Aldo, Barão and his others fighters and I like very much. I spoke with my professor Luiz Dórea and said that was the time to test me in Rio. I came, spoke with Dedé and he treated me very well, as all of the team. Today I can train and evolve beside them."

Longtime mentor and former UFC 265-pound champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira was said to be feeling betrayed by the switch, leading many to believe there may have been a rift between the two.

According to "Cigano," everything is still good on his end.

"I have all the respect for both of the Nogueiras and for all Team Nogueira. I'm Team Nogueira. The professor Dede Pederneiras knows that, everybody knows that. As I am Team Nogueira, I'm champion, the team from professor Luiz Dórea, I'm Jiu-Jitsu Northeast, the team from the professor Yuri Carlton. Today I'm training in Nova União, I think this is evolution. I learned from Minotauro himself to always pursue evolution, to learn more from the others and that is what I'm doing. I think that for my game is necessary a different kind of training, a different kind of learning and I came here to find that. Of course, I'm still Team Nogueira and I'm still going to train there regardless of who is part of the team and feel good also training with me. I need three months to be prepared. If the UFC give me this time, I fight against anyone. I have never chosen an opponent. I don't know. There is Miocic, who recently fought with Gonzaga. There is Overeem, who recently fought with Mir. Anyone of them or anyone else. The UFC has a lot of options to choose someone to fight me soon."

Indeed, fighters splitting from camps on a mutual agreement is nothing new in the MMA world; however, it seems in this case, there may have simply been a lack of communication between Junior and "Big Nog."

Nevertheless, Dos Santos looks to bounce back after getting battered from pillar to post for the second straight time by current division champion Cain Velasquez at UFC 166 last October. And training with a whole new camp is the first step in "Cigano's" rise to the top.

But can the camp that helped UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and UFC bantamweight kingpin Renan Barao climb the MMA ladder, do the same for Junior?

Time will tell.

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