Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos is expected to make his official pro wrestling debut later tonight at AWE Rampage live on TNT and it may not be the last time we see “Cigano” inside of the ring.
Dos Santos, who parted ways with UFC earlier this year, has been quietly making appearances on recent AEW shows. As part of Dan Lambert’s stable of MMA fighters, JDS has joined the likes of Jorge Masvidal, Paige VanZant, and Andrei Arlovski as former UFC fighters making waves in pro wrestling. “Cigano” will be the first of the bunch to break off and partake in an official match.
Dos Santos, who will partner with AEW wrestlers Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky to challenge Chris Jericho, Jake Hager and Sammy Guevara in a six-man tag-team match, has not officially signed with the buzzing AEW promotion just yet. It’s something that JDS could see happening, but nothing that has been inked on paper.
“Not yet – but maybe,” Dos Santos told MMA Junkie. “The one responsible for this is this man right there, Dan Lambert. He brought some of us to the shows at AEW, and I was just impressed with that. I remember I enjoyed watching some pro wrestling matches, but I wasn’t really following it. Once I was there and I could see how things worked, I was impressed and I said, ‘Man, this is amazing. I want to be a part of it. I want to be in that ring, too.’ So things started to happen, and here we are, close to our debut.
“Why not? I’m not going to say no. I really enjoy this. I’m happy doing it. I’m enjoying participating in this and the challenge it’s been for me. It feels great, actually. I was looking forward to having a next fight and here I am, close to fighting again in a pro wrestling match, and I feel good about it.”
While Dos Santos is one of the more respected heavyweights to ever compete under the UFC banner he is not a professional wrestler at heart. It has yet to be seen how “Cigano” will perform inside of the ring on Friday night and moving forward, but the Brazilian veteran believes he’ll bring some experience to the mix seeing as MMA and pro wrestling share a few similarities.
“The biggest one is to have a good performance,” Dos Santos said. “You have to put on a good show for all the crowd, all the people that will be there cheering for us. And it goes the same (as MMA) – to have a good performance and get a good victory with yourself. I’m just impressed with this whole (pro wrestling) world. Back in the day, I didn’t even imagine how big it was.
“I’m just impressed with everything and how hard these guys get prepared for this – (and) how hard it is for them, as well. You’ve got to train a lot. You’ve got to put yourself in a very good preparation to be 100 percent, to go there and have a good performance. That’s the main thing that attracted me on this thing. I said, ‘Wow, this is amazing. These guys go hard. I want to do some of that,’ and here I am doing it.”
AEW Rampage is expected to take place this evening live on TNT starting at 10 p.m. ET. Mania will have coverage and full highlights of Dos Santos’ pro wrestling debut.