Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos has been a fixture in the leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion's 265-pound division for the last three years, but injury issues have played a role in his ability to compete more often.
"Cigano" is hoping a victory over heated rival Alistair Overeem in the UFC on FOX 17 co-main event his Saturday night (Dec. 19, 2015) can make up for lost time and usher him towards a title shot against the winner of the upcoming championship rematch at the UFC 196 pay-per-view (PPV) between Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez.
Dos Santos spoke with MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani about Overeem and his chances of attaining a title shot:
"I feel good now to be fighting against him. He's a very tough opponent. Everybody knows that ... He likes to talk to promote the fight, but many things he says don't make sense to me because who pulled out of the first fight? It was him because he failed the drug test. He says I didn't like to fight him. I don't pick opponents ... I'm feeling good. I'm feeling like butterflies in my belly because it's a long time I don't fight ... I already see myself winning in many different ways. I think a victory over Alistair Overeem will give me the chance to fight for the title again. It doesn't matter who the champion is."
Before the Brazilian boxer can think about gold, he must dispatch of "The Reem" first.
The terrifyingly powerful Dutchman and kickboxing ace has notched notable wins over Roy Nelson and Frank Mir during his stint in ZUFFA.
Overeem, 35, was expected to collide with then-titleholder Dos Santos back in 2012, but was instead pulled from their UFC 146 headliner after failing a pre-fight drug screening.
Now, after three years have gone by, the duo will settle their score in the "Sunshine State," only this time it will be with no belt on the line.
Dos Santos was later beat down by the two-time champion Velasquez in 2012 and once again in 2013, before rebounding with his last win, which was a hard-fought unanimous decision over rising contender Stipe Miocic in Dec. 2014.
The 31-year-old may not care who's the champion after Werdum and Velasquez run it back in Feb. 2016, but if his prediction is right, then fight fans could be in-store for a fourth tilt in the saga between "JDS" and the All-American wrestler.