Junior dos Santos seemed content with his release from UFC earlier this month, but the former heavyweight champion is now singing a different tune after letting the news settle in over the past few weeks.
While “Cigano” ended up losing his last four trips to the Octagon via knockout some believed UFC would give the Brazilian veteran another chance to prove he still belongs in the big leagues. After all, dos Santos is an all-time heavyweight legend who has fought in five total UFC title fights. If there was ever a fighter who deserved one final fight to right the ship it would be JDS.
Unfortunately, UFC saw what it needed to see from dos Santos over the past two years to cut him alongside fellow heavyweight standout Alistair Overeem. While dos Santos originally thanked UFC for his time in the promotion “Cigano” has since changed his stance after looking back at how he was handed his walking papers.
“I reacted with surprise, [and] I was a little bit impressed by the coldness of how they treated the case,” dos Santos told MMA Fighting. “I know it’s a business, [but] they just don’t care. The history we did in there and everything else, the dedication and how everything have always played out, was totally disregarded.”
Dos Santos had previously stated that UFC executive Hunter Campbell had reached out to inform him of his release, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“It was none of that, actually,” explained dos Santos. “The UFC didn’t even talk to me. For example, [UFC President] Dana White, I haven’t talked to him in years. Not to ask anything or know anything. They didn’t even talk to me. [UFC] texted Dan [Lambert] of American Top Team, and it got to me that their decision was to release me from my contract.”
UFC tried to book dos Santos for a fill-in fight against Marcin Tybura at UFC 260, but the former heavyweight champion wasn’t going to be pushed into another fight, or given an ultimatum. The Brazilian believes UFC “was clearly trying to use me as a stepping stone for them, just like it was against [Cyril] Gane.”
Remember, dos Santos stepped up on relatively short notice to challenge rising heavyweight contender Ciryl Gane at UFC 256 in Dec. 2020. He lost via second-round TKO.
“I was in Brazil and came back [to Florida] six weeks before December 6, the date of the fight [with Gane], and they said the same thing: ‘We need you to fight on December 6,’” recalled dos Santos. “I said, ‘I want the fight, but let’s do it in January, give me time to train and prepare for the fight.’ They denied.”
Dos Santos isn’t trying to make excuses for his recent loss to Gane but the veteran acknowledges that more time to train would have helped his chances inside of the Octagon.
“They said no, ‘We need you to fight on December 6,’” dos Santos said. “‘If you can’t, since you’re coming off three losses, we will release you.’ I said, ‘So you’re not asking me, you’re telling me. You’re telling me I will fight on December 6.’ That’s how I took that fight with Gane.
“I didn’t have much choice, it was under pressure really, and now they wanted to do it again. Worse, on shorter notice, and I was coming off concussions both times, and they don’t even care, they wanted me to fight. When I turned down [the fight] they didn’t even say anything to me, they texted [Lambert].”
Given dos Santos’ track record with the promotion it’s surprising to see him treated like this upon his departure. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time this has happened to fighters on the wrong end of their career who are struggling to win inside of the Octagon.
“I’ve heard other athletes, friends and people I know, say how they were treated after the UFC wasn’t interested in them anymore, and it was exactly the same thing with me,” he said. “Complete disregard. You’re not important to them anymore o r… to me, that’s the intention, to force these fights without [proper] preparation and especially coming off a concussion. To me, it’s clear that their intention was to use me as a stepping stone to build other guys.”
Dos Santos, 37, is eager to get back into action as soon as possible. Having fought for UFC since 2008 the former world champion is hoping to create a new chapter in his career and prove he’s still in peak physical condition.
“When we’re tied up with the UFC we don’t have the idea of the outside world, and things have changed over the past few years,” he said. “We’re listening to several offers. It’s like when you’re in a 12-year relationship and all of a sudden you break up and you see many other people are interested in you.
“I’m really excited with everything we’re hearing. We’re talking to the bare-knuckle people, we’re talking to boxing people as well. We got good offers already. Boxing is my area — I love jiu-jitsu, but my style is more on the feet, and I’m super excited for this new moment. We’ll have good news soon, and we’ll make a lot of noise. I’m 37 and I can say I’m in the best shape of my career.”
What say you, Maniacs? Did UFC do JDS dirty? Can the former champion shine outside the promotion?
Let us know in the comments below!