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Million dollar winner Antonio Carlos Jr. says he’d ‘never go back’ to UFC

UFC veteran and PFL champion Antonio Carlos Junior is happy at his new promotion.

Antonio Carlos Junior became the 2021 PFL light heavyweight champion in October.
Antonio Carlos Junior became the 2021 PFL light heavyweight champion in October.

Former UFC middleweight Antonio Carlos Junior could not be more satisfied with the new path his career has taken. After being picked up by the Professional Fighters League following his release from the larger promotion, ‘Cara de Sapato’ soon joined the 2021 light heavyweight tournament, where he became the champion at PFL 10, last month.

Now with a one million dollar prize making the Brazilian want to stay with the promotion for another year, Antonio tells Combate he has no intention of ever going back to the UFC. Even if the company were to personally call him back, Junior claims he would turn down the offer, thinking he would be better off away from the Octagon.

“I thought that, too. (that there was no life after the UFC), that’s the funny part. Now I see I’m not only happier, but I’m also more accomplished and financially better than when I was in the UFC. The UFC was good for me for a while, but there is not just life after the UFC, there’s a great life. Maybe even a much better life. In fact, if they invited me, I would never go back.”

Although Antonio cannot stress enough how important it is to have financial stability after winning such a large amount in the PFL, he guarantees that was not the biggest reason why he decided to join and remain within the promotion. In Junior’s opinion, the main factor is being able to accomplish more in his career than he was able to back in the UFC.

“Money is great, it brings you security. We can focus only on training, we don’t have to think about bills. Nowadays, we see so many people worried about money, with what’s going to happen in the future. Whether you like it or not, money brings you some emotional stability. But what really speaks to me is the professional accomplishment, achieving my goals. Especially after everything I’ve been through. Sometimes I catch myself smiling alone because this is such a turnaround for me. When we go through that, it’s a much stronger feeling.”

During his 2021 PFL season, Antonio (13-5-2 NC) scored wins over Tom Lawlor, Emiliano Sordi and Marthin Hamlet, while his fight against Vinny Magalhes ended in a No Contest due to an accidental groin strike. Before that, the 31-year-old was on a three-fight losing skid in the UFC, with losses to Brad Tavares, Uriah Hall and Ian Heinisch.