When you're the current UFC Heavyweight Champion, and are regarded as the No. 1 heavyweight fighter in the world, it's hard not to have a large target on your back. Such is the case for Junior "Cigano" dos Santos, a Brazilian-born mixed martial artist and natural boxer, who has managed to ascend the ranks of the UFC heavyweight division. Dos Santos currently holds the crown at the top of the summit, but that's only half the battle. His test now is dispatching those who come to challenge him. Successful in his only title defense thus far against Frank Mir, dos Santos now preps for a rematch against Cain Velasquez, the man he beat to take the title just over a year ago.
While he's been spending much of his time in Brazil prepping for this Saturday's UFC 155, dos Santos took some time out with with us to talk about the rematch with Velasquez, and his plans to make sure his belt goes nowhere anytime soon.
Interview by Adam Silvers (@silversurfer103)
Your first fight with Cain Velasquez lasted 64 seconds before you knocked him out. Do you think this fight is going to be different? How?
I think so. All the fights are different. Cain Velasquez is going to be hungrier than the first fight. He’s going to try and take me down and give me his ground and pound. I will try to keep this fight standing like always, so I can knock him out again.
How are you feeling health wise right now? How have you felt in the weeks and months leading up to this fight?
I’m feeling very well. I had a great training camp here in Brazil with a great team. All the guys really helped me a lot here, and I’m really happy because I think I had the best camp ever and I have no injuries, I’m 100 percent. It’s very important for a good fight, this time I will be coming 100 percent for him, and I’ll be ready to put on a good show for him.
This is just your second title defense after the victory over Frank Mir. How long do you see the streak going?
I see this going for a long streak. I work hard everyday to keep this belt for a long time. My dream was to become a champion, thank God. Now I’m the heavyweight champion. Now what I want is to break records. I want to keep this belt for years.
What’s your gameplan going into this fight with Velasquez?
My first gameplan is always the same, I will be looking for the knockout for sure. I’m going to use my boxing skills that I believe in so much, but if there is somebody who can take me down, the guy is Cain Velasquez. He’ll look to take me down and hold me on the ground, but I’m very well prepared also because I’ve worked on my jiu jitsu and I’m ready to fight.
Do you feel added pressure this time around against Velasquez because it is your title to defend, as opposed to your first meeting when you were the challenger?
No. To tell you the truth, I’m not feeling extra pressure, the same pressure I always feel to win my fights. Because my confidence comes from my training. When I’m training very well, I’m confident, I’m looking to go there and show everyone what I did in my camp. So...no pressure.
You were originally supposed to fight Alistair Overeem back in May for the title, but he failed a pre-fight drug test. What are your thoughts on drug use and keeping the game “clean?”
I will like this [current] fight now. Considering myself as a true number one in the UFC, I think Cain Velasquez is the number two. So we are going to have a really good fight, Cain Velasquez and I are very professional. I don’t like to use, I never use, any kind of drugs to help me in my fights. I don’t like that, I don’t like drugs. This fight is going to be good because I think Cain Velasquez is like me.
If you beat Velasquez again, would you be looking for a fight against Overeem?
Like I said, I don’t care about who is going to be my next opponent. Now I think he is going to fight too, he’s going to fight Bigfoot Silva. I don’t think he’s going to win this [fight], but if the UFC puts him in a fight against me, I’m going to like to beat him.
How did you get into fighting?
My first MMA fight was July, 2006 here in Brazil. I won a few fights here in Brazil and then I got a chance to fight in the UFC, but they put me against the number one contender for the title at that time. It was Fabricio Werdum. I used to be a fan of his, watch him a lot. At that time I said to my coach let’s go, I know we can beat this guy, and I trained very hard for this fight, it was amazing. It was a perfect start to my UFC career because I knocked him out, it was really important for me. I think it was one of the most important fights for me.
Who are your top fighters in the game right now?
For sure the champions. They are really, really good. GSP, wow, his last fight was really impressive. I like him a lot. Jon Jones is amazing, he’s so confident, he uses his elbows very well and I think he’s a great talent. Anderson Silva is the number one pound-for-pound in the world, I really admire those guys. Also, Jose Aldo, wow, Jose Aldo is an amazing fighter. I think he’s one of the best pound-for-pound fighters as well. He’s really good. I admire a lot of good fighters, Fedor is a great talent too. I used to watch him fight, to learn how aggressive he used to fight. All the time I am looking for great fighters.
Your one loss is to Joaquim Ferreira. What happened?
Well, that fight I can tell you, was one of the best things that happened to my career. After that fight my development in MMA was much greater. I learned a lot from the loss.
How excited are you for UFC 155 in Las Vegas?
Wow, I’m really excited, I can’t wait to be fighting again because that’s my life. This is what I love to do. I’m very well prepared, I did a very hard camp here in Brazil and thank God that I’m not going to train anymore. Now I’m just looking forward to the fight, I’m glad that the training is over. I’m ready, ready to go, and ready to show the world why I’m the No. 1 Heavyweight Champion.