Junior dos Santos is the youngest star in the heavyweight division. With a record of 15-2 and UFC heavyweight title already to his name he's accomplished as much as most heavyweights will in their entire career, and he's only 28. However that incredible success has come with a hefty price. He sat down with Yahoo! Sports' Kevin Iole to discuss his various MMA injuries.
Iole asked Cigano, first and foremost about how he felt about staying in a career long term, when it was certain to cost him his health down the line.
"That's a good question," he said. "That's a really good question."
"You know, I think it's worth it," he said. "This is my life. This is everything I have. People don't know how hard we [work] and what we sacrifice to [be successful]. MMA athletes train so much, you know. I would continue to [do what I'm doing]. I want it so badly. I want to give everything I have to this. This is everything to me."
He spoke about his fight with Velasquez, and the toll it took on his body. Saying that after the fight his urine turned a dark brown. The cause, a condition called rhabdomyolysis, the breakdown of muscle tissue seeping into the kidneys. Dos Santos had trained so hard for his fight against Velasquez that he was damaging his muscle tissue beyond his body's ability to repair it. The creatine kinase levels in his blood should have have been somewhere between 300 units per liter and 350, Cigano's were reported at 1,400.
As a result Cigano has enlisted the help of physiologist Alexandre Dortas. Dortas has limited dos Santos to two 75 min training sessions per day, and checks his blood often to ensure that he's not over exerting himself. But this isn't the first injury set back of the Brazilian heavyweight's career. While in training for his title defense against Frank Mir he separated a muscle on his right side. The muscle was torn away from the bone, but he decided to continue the fight anyway.
He spoke about the prospect of getting hit in the injured muscle, and why he took the fight anyway:
"Honestly, I probably would have gone down," he said.
"That's a lot of money we spend to do a training camp," he said. "I just don't want to lose that for nothing. And you know, I believe in myself. I believe I still can [fight and win], even with the injury."
As many fans already know, he entered his first fight against Velasquez on an injured knee, impressive considering he left with the heavyweight title. That makes three straight bouts in which he's had some significant health problem during his preparation. However, it would appear that a new, more careful, approach to training has paid off as dos Santos says that he will enter UFC 160 against Mark Hunt uninjured. He's not looking past Hunt, but a third bout with Cain Velasquez looms large in his mind.
"People will be talking about our fights for a long, long time, I believe," he said, grinning as usual. "That guy hasn't seen the last of me."
No matter the result against Hunt I doubt that Velasquez and dos Santos have fought for the last time. Considering that he has said he'd like to fight all the way into his 40s the two of them will no doubt meet again somewhere down the road.