Antonio Carlos Jr. had to do a lot of soul-searching between his UFC departure and PFL signing.
Carlos Jr. parted ways with the UFC on the heels of three consecutive losses to Brad Tavares, Uriah Hall and Ian Heinisch. Initially, Carlos Jr. was disappointed that he did not achieve his legacy goals as a UFC fighter. Eventually, however, he found relief through PFL's $1 million tournament format.
"It's kind of hard to separate that. You have goals you want to achieve. Why was I sad when I left UFC? Because I didn't achieve what I wanted to. I wanted to become UFC champion. This is just a personal thing. I wanted to fight for the belt. I wanted to get into the main event and I couldn't do that. That made me really sad because I put my mind to it and I worked hard. But I also need to make money and pay my bills," he told Fightful. "I see when you trash talk you get more views. More people want to see you, but I don't feel good doing that. I was confused. What should I do? Should I do that? Just for the money? Or should I be myself? If you're going to start doing that, you're going to live for that. If you're going to be the bad guy, you're going to live with this aura around you. You can't be the bad guy sometimes and the good guy sometimes. No one will believe it."
Carlos Jr. (10-5-0-1) will make his PFL debut against part-time pro-wrestler and UFC veteran Tom Lawlor (10-7-0-1). Despite the fact that Lawlor has not competed in MMA since 2018, "Shoeface" is expecting a tough scrap.
"I don't believe it's going to be easy," ACJ said. "Even if he is two or three years out, he is doing his best for sure. He always has a chance to get $1 million. He is a former UFC fighter. He's a wrestler. Wrestlers are used to being tough guys. There are no easy fights. Even if you fight some kid 100-pounds less than you, you always have to give your best. That's what I'm going to do. I don't want to get into the cage with that mindset. I want to think I'm going to be fighting the champion. The next fight is always the most important fight of your life."
PFL's 2021 season boasts impressive additions to its roster, including: Anthony Pettis, Rory MacDonald and Claressa Shields. Carlos Jr. says all the new signings were a good omen for the former UFC fighter.
"A lot of guys are leaving the UFC and going to other organizations. This is good so there is no monopoly. There are more options for everybody. This is really good. If there is only one organization, it's no good for the fighters. As a fighter, I think this is great for us," he explained. "These organizations are growing. I see the PFL. Wow, a lot of big names. Former UFC fighters, former Bellator fighters. A lot of guys growing inside the PFL like Kayla [Harrison]. We train together so I can see she is very talented. Probably going to win her division again."
What will Carlos Jr. will do should he win the $1 million PFL tournament?
"I already bought my house, I have a nice car. Maybe I'll invest in my gym a little more. I just opened a gym. That's what I'm going to do," he shared before teasing. "I'm going to buy a Ferrari."