Former UFC heavyweight champions are not strangers to pro wrestling. In a somewhat amazing stat, 10 of the 17 former heavyweight champs have performed in at least one pro wrestling match. And Junior dos Santos is about to become the 11th.
Dos Santos, who was released by the UFC in March, recently showed up in All Elite Wrestling along with fellow former champ Andrei Arlovski as a part of Dan Lambert’s American Top Team crew. He got involved physically last week for the first time, jumping in the ring to beat down members of Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle stable (which includes Bellator heavyweight Jake Hager). And he will make his official debut this Friday on AEW Rampage in a six-man tag match.
Last week, he told ESPN how excited he was about entering a new world:
“I love it. It’s very different than MMA, but just as exciting. The reactions from the fans are amazing. I’m having a lot of fun and look forward to kicking Jericho and Hager’s asses next week.”
His beatdown of The Inner Circle on last week’s episode of Dynamite wasn’t universally enjoyed though. Wrestling personality Jim Cornette, who has spent 40 years in the business and regularly offers up some heated or controversial opinions in the process, wasn’t a fan of JDS’ work. He gave his view on things on his podcast (transcribed by Sportskeeda):
“The problem is, Junior Dos Santos is one of the major names in Mixed Martial Arts, as long as he doesn’t do anything physical. People have in mind that he’s a badass on a world class level, but since he can’t work, he got in here and gave Sammy (Guevara) phony ground and pound for no reason. Then you have exposed that Junior Dos Santos can’t f—king work but he’s trying, which means that he is a phony.” ... “The people think that he is real until they see him do phony sh-t.. They saw him do phony sh-t here ‘cause he can’t work.”
Again, Cornette frequently criticizes things just to get attention on himself. And it’s hard to judge a man’s potential based on one run-in and a few working punches. But we’ll just have to see how it goes on Friday, when Dos Santos joins Scorpio Sky and Ethan Page to take on Guevara, Jericho, and Hager on TNT.
Oh, and one other MMA item of note - Jorge “Gambred” Masvidal will be in Dos Santos’ corner for the match.