It has been a few years since Junior Dos Santos was called the UFC Heavyweight Champion and after dealing with some injuries that kept him out of the octagon for most of 2016, the fighter is ready to become a heavyweight champion again.
The one big thing that has affected Dos Santos is recent years was his own self doubt, but that is something that is behind the heavyweight contender.
“I’ve been maturing a lot, but mostly on the mental aspect,” Dos Santos said to MMA Junkie. “I think I’m becoming stronger in my own head. I look at the times I ended up failing in my fights. I see those were mistakes I allowed myself to make – such as doubting my ability to not only defend takedowns, but to fight on the ground, as well. And when you have doubts, things have a big tendency to fail. That’s what happened. I’ve been living a period of enlightenment. And I’m becoming more aware of my own skill. The way I see it now, among the heavyweights, I have heavyweight strength. I’m a lot faster than a regular heavyweight. I have skills – boxing is my main skill, but I train everything. I have all it takes to be the No. 1 in this division. I was just lacking that confidence of believing 100 percent you’re capable of doing something and then doing it. When there are doubts, you can make mistakes. I think that’s where I paid the price. I doubted my own ability and I paid the price.”
Dos Santos will be stepping into the octagon for the first time in 2017, when he headlines UFC Fight Night 105 against Stefan Struve.
“Struve has really improved on his standup,” Dos Santos said. “But I still see him with good weapons on the ground. Like in his last fight, he pretty much pulled (Daniel Omielanczuk) to the guard. He did a good fight. So he’s an athlete who represents a big danger. No wonder he was the only one who knocked out the current champion. I beat Miocic, too, but it was a decision after a tough fight. The only one to knock him out was Struve – and I don’t think it’s by chance that the UFC matched us up, the only two guys who were able to beat the current champion.”
Dos Santos not only plans on defeating Struve at UFC Fight Night 105, but he believes the win will put him back on track toward title contention.
“Of course, in the UFC it really depends on what they want to do,” Dos Santos said. “That’s why I talked about this issue of not getting a fight and getting back in action. I just came from a surgery, so it was important for me to get back into action to be ready for whatever happens. In case the UFC decides something else, like putting Velasquez or Werdum against Miocic, I’ll probably do another fight. I’m ready for that. But I don’t think it will happen. A win for Velasquez – I don’t know exactly, but I’ve heard he’s getting surgery afterward, which benefits me and puts me right there. And in case Werdum wins, I don’t think that will be a more interesting fight for the champion than me. A rematch between Miocic and I would be a lot more interesting, I believe, considering Werdum lost to him recently. That’s my opinion, of course. The UFC makes their decisions, but we need to be positive.”
UFC Fight Night 105 takes place on Sunday, February 19 from the Scotiabank Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada with Junior Dos Santos and Stefan Struve headlining.