Former UFC heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos has had a rough time over the past two years, so the Brazilian has taken his training to American Top Team in the US in an effort to get back to his best.
“I’m at ATT, training with them, because I know a lot of guys from there,” JDS told FO during a recent pre-fight media tour in Croatia, where his upcoming UFC Fight Night 86 main event bout against Ben Rothwell will take place. “They’re a great team, they have a great structure to support us, and great coaches too. It’s been good to be out there and enjoy those things, trying to get better as a fighter.”
Junior is coming off a December knockout loss to Alistair Overeem. The fight was his first after a year on the sidelines and only his second since his October 2013 TKO loss to Cain Velasquez.
“These last two years were very hard for me; so hard that I wasn’t normal in my last fight,” said dos Santos. “I wasn’t bad for the fight but I wasn’t feeling how I feel normally. Without taking anything away from Alistair Overeem – he did a great job – but right now I’m feeling more comfortable and more confident.”
“It was something very strange – I can’t explain how it works – but I was nervous and feeling kind of strange (against Overeem),” he added. “Like I said, not taking anything away from Alistair but I wasn’t feeling normal. I want to correct this and do a better job this time.
“I think I have to keep fighting and have a better frequency of fights this year, then I’m going to be feeling the same again.”
Having been plagued with injuries in recent years, dos Santos is now hungry to make up for lost time and climb his way back to the top of the UFC heavyweight ladder.
“I think it’s important for all the athletes to keep a good frequency of fights,” JDS explained. “I asked for this next fight because I don’t want to stay waiting for a fight.
“In two years I did one fight, with Miocic, and I was injured in that fight. It was weird. It was so hard for me. In the UFC we just make money when we fight, so that’s why it was tough.”
Junior is set to meet Rothwell at Zagreb Arena on April 10th as the UFC visits Croatia for the first time in the promotion’s history. Rothwell is riding a four-fight win streak and is coming off a January submission win over catch wrestling phenom Josh Barnett.
“Ben Rothwell is coming from great victories, he’s doing a great job, maybe living the best time of his career,” said Junior. “I know I’m going to be facing one of the top guys fighting for the title at this time. I have to show a lot of work and a lot of will to win this.
“We know he’s going to put me on top of the heavyweight rankings again, and a chance for the title again.”
“I think he’s very confident,” he continued. “He walks forward all the time and he imposes his will in the fight, like his last fight with Barnett – I never thought he could do that. Everything’s possible in a fight, but he submitted Josh Barnett, who’s a specialist on the ground. That was impressive.”
With a win over Rothwell, JDS hopes to put himself right back in line for a shot at the UFC heavyweight title that he held back in 2012. The title is currently held by the man dos Santos beat in his UFC debut, Fabricio Werdum, and is set to be defended against the man JDS earned his last win over, Stipe Miocic.
When asked for a prediction on Werdum vs. Miocic, the Brazilian otherwise known as ‘Cigano’ gave a slight edge to the challenger.
“I see an advantage for Stipe Miocic in this fight, but you never know. It’s the heavyweight division and Werdum is also doing a great job… It’s going to be a very interesting fight so I’m looking forward to it.”