With a tough 2-3 record in his last 5 fights, former UFC heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos entered his April showdown with Ben Rothwell in dire need of a win. Luckily for the Brazilian and his many fans, he was able to produce that win, bludgeoning his dangerous foe to a sound, unanimous decision.
Regrettably, dos Santos sustained a shoulder injury in this bout that would ultimately require surgery. By late August, however, the former champ had been adequately patched up and was ready to return to action. So began the hunt for his next opponent.
Unfortunately, dos Santos had a very difficult time finding that opponent. Though he was offered fights with top-ranked foes in Alistair Overeem (who he lost to in 2015) and Mark Hunt (who he defeated in 2013), both of these fighters apparently turned the opportunity down. Luckily for Dos Santos, hot-and-cold Dutch heavyweight Stefan Struve was up for a do-over of their 2009 fight, which dos Santos won by first round KO. The two will meet in the main event of the UFC’s February 19 return to Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
In a recent interview with MMAfighting.com, Dos Santos explained the process that led to this somewhat surprising matchup.
“We started to consider him as an option because we were told that the UFC was trying to find a fight for me, and most of them turned it down,” dos Santos told MMA Fighting. “Some athletes said they didn’t have enough time to prepare for me, others turned it down, or were injured. When I heard Stefan Struve accepted it, I was happy because I’m recovered from my shoulder injury since October and I have no time to waste.”
“I was told that Mark Hunt didn’t turn down the fight, but he had some issues with the UFC, some contract stuff, so the fight didn’t happen. But Alistair, yes, he turned it down,” Dos Santos said. “It looks like it was offered for him in November and then in December, and he turned it down saying that he didn’t have enough time [to prepare]. I think this fight will be hard [to happen again]. I think he knows that what happened will never happen again. He was lucky.”
“I can’t just wait for a fight, for athletes to be well enough to fight me,” he continued. “I understand why they don’t want to fight me. I’m in a great moment in my career, my last fight was great, and I’m feeling this is my moment. I know how to use my strength and skill the best way possible. It makes sense for them to fear fighting me.”
If dos Santos is able to defeat Struve for a second time in beautiful Halifax, Nova Scotia, he’s hoping the UFC will pencil him in for a title shot against reigning heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic, who he defeated in late 2014.
“I will be the number one in the heavyweight division again,” he said. “I know the mistakes I’ve done in the past, and I truly believe my skills and what I can do. I’m faster than any other heavyweight in the UFC. With or without USADA, whatever, I’m still the same.”
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