Much like many of his colleagues, former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos is about to make his transition to the ring, although not in the traditional way.
Paired up against experienced boxer Kubrat Pulev, ‘Cigano’ will debut in Triller’s Triad Combat’s triangular stage, in a bout that mixes boxing with some MMA strikes and clinching techniques. However, elbows, kicks, takedowns and submissions are still not allowed.
After leaving the UFC on a frustrating four-fight losing skid, all knockout losses, Junior hopes to find a new kind of motivation at Triad. Having never done it before, the Brazilian believes the transition could be a good opportunity to re-evaluate himself as an athlete and overcome new challenges.
“It’s a great opportunity. I’ve done some self-reflecting and I really miss fighting.” Junior told Ag Fight. “Living this period of preparation again is very exciting. I’m very motivated. Pulev is very experienced. He has fought big names in boxing, a really tough guy. He’s the kind of challenge that’ll get anyone going. I’m not going out there do a pointless fight with no career aspirations. My goal at 37 years of age is to accomplish great things. Greater than what I’ve already accomplished.”
An experienced boxer, with a 28-2 record and 14 knockout wins to his name, Pulev has already given a tough welcome to another former UFC champion in Frank Mir. Back in November 2021, Kubrat knocked out the Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt in the first round.
However, Cigano believes his styles matches up better against Pulev’s than Mir’s. Praised for having some of the best boxing in the UFC’s heavyweight division, Junior hopes to have a chance to showcase his skills in what he expects to be a thrilling, dangerous fight for the professional boxer.
“I think the rules will help me make a perfect transition into boxing. If there ever was an opportunity for me to test myself in boxing, that’s it. This is the time. The promotion is giving boxing guys a chance do a little MMA and MMA guys to do a little boxing. It’s the perfect mix.”
“I think the rules favor me when it comes to grappling.” Junior continued. “But I’m not there to grapple, you know that. I’m there to box. I want to let my hands fly, that’s what I do best. Always looking for the knockout.”
As mentioned before, Cigano (21-9) left the UFC on a four-fight losing skid, losing by knockout to Ciryl Gane, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou. The 37-year-old’s last win happened in March 2019, when he knocked out Derrick Lewis.
Now, Junior is expected to take on Pulev at Triller’s Triad Combat 2’s main event. The card is expected to take place on February 26, in Houston Texas. The card will also feature former UFC champion Vitor Belfort in a fight against Chad Dawson, as well as Octagon veterans Sam Sicilia and Jimmie Rivera.