How does it feel to feature in the headline fight of the biggest UFC TV event in history?
Junior Dos Santos: It feels awesome. I am honored by the opportunity the UFC has given me and I am very excited. This event is going to be huge for me and Cain, for the UFC, and for the sport - for all of MMA. We'll reach a huge audience and we'll be able to educate people about MMA and acquire some new fans. For the athletes, the increased visibility brings more opportunities and better sponsorship proposals. So it's just huge all-around, and I am so happy to be a part of it.
Will the pressure of the occasion affect your preparation?
No, not my preparation. I'm a professional athlete, I'm a professional fighter, and my job is to be prepared for the fight. The other stuff is cool, but my only focus is the fight. Preparation is the result of years of hard training. Of course, we intensify that training closer to a fight, and work on strategy specific to a particular opponent, but really preparation, for me, comes from ongoing training. So it isn't changed just because of where a fight is televised. I don't really even view stuff like that as pressure, if anything, I consider it motivation. I filter out whatever I consider 'pressure' and I turn it into motivation.
Naturally, an entertaining stand-up battle would please the Fox TV execs and the large number of new first-time fans most. Will that be on your mind?
I would love nothing more than a stand-up battle, but fights are unpredictable. Personally, I am always looking for a knockout, and I think that could happen and the fight could end quickly. But, it could also go five rounds. We could be on the ground or against the cage or standing up trading jabs, I have no way of knowing. I will be prepared for wherever it winds up. I won't be thinking about whether the fight will please or entertain people; I'll be thinking about how do I knock this guy out and become the new UFC heavyweight champion.
My motivation, first and foremost, is winning. I fight to win. That's what fans like - to see us fighters in there giving everything we have to win. If fans are happy, they're watching fights, they're buying merchandise, and the business of fighting does well. So, really, if fans are happy, executives are happy; it's a no-brainer. "Ultimately, all fans want is to see great fights. And both Cain and I are exciting fighters. Plus, we are both very driven and very hungry for the win. I don't think either of us wants to have our first UFC loss on a night like November 12th. That's motivation enough for each of us to go in there and give our all. Unfortunately, for one guy to win, the other guy has to lose. That's just how it works.
Cain Velasquez, like yourself, has got great power and speed, how do you plan on countering that? Do you think it will be first to land clean wins by KO?
You're right, we're both strong and fast and we both have really good movement in the Octagon. I think if I land a clean punch it could end there, but with a fight like this there is no way to know. Cain will be my toughest opponent yet, and I think I will be his toughest opponent yet. I can tell you this, if I were a fan, I would want to watch this fight. Neither of us has ever had a boring fight. Watching Cain, who is just relentless, is awesome. I can't say watching me is awesome because it sounds conceited, so I'll leave it there (laughs). But I promise this fight will deliver. The thing about this fight is we're both hungry for a win. Cain has been out of the game for a while and I'm sure he's dying to get back, and I just really want my chance at him and at that belt - I've been waiting a year for this chance, I've had fights scheduled and rescheduled and now, it's my time. I hope it goes well for me.
Alistair Overeem is now in the UFC, fighting Brock Lesnar December 30th. Do you believe that the division is at its strongest in history? And, what is your opinion of both those guys?
Overeem vs Lesnar will be a good fight and yes there are definitely a lot of good fighters in the division right now. I'm glad Brock is recovered and that he's back, and it's interesting that we're going to mix up the division a bit with Overeem coming over from Strikeforce. I definitely want to see that fight. As far as the division being 'at its strongest,' I don't know. I think there's a lot of talent here now, but there has always been lots of talent here. Guys like Rodrigo Nogueira, Fedor, 'Cro Cop' are all in this division and they're legends of this sport and have always been exciting. I think there's just a lot of new talent that is certainly at the same high level of the talent that's been here already.
Missing out on fighting Brock after TUF never impacted your performance against Carwin. Did you take your frustrations out on him?
No. First, I wasn't frustrated. Life changes, and you have to know how to roll with the changes. Brock had a serious illness and when I heard the news, the first thing that came to my mind was that I hoped he would be okay and could recover from it. I knew it had to be bad if he was pulling out of our fight, and I was concerned about him. I'm really glad he's getting back in the Octagon in December first and foremost because it means he's healthy. Also, this is a sport; hitting hard shots isn't about taking out frustration on somebody, it's about winning. If I want to take out frustration, I'll use a punch bag or go for a run, not hit another human. I fight in the Octagon; I fight for the sport, against a willing, equally skilled opponent, not for frustration.
Here's how it happened: the UFC called to say Brock was out. In the next breath they told me I could keep the fight date as the headliner if I agreed to fight Shane Carwin instead. Of course, I agreed ... I would have no reason not to agree. First of all, I am a professional fighter, and I believe my job is to fight the opponents the UFC gives me.
Second, Shane Carwin is a heavy-fisted guy with tremendous resilience and determination, so I would have no reason in the world not to want to fight him. I hadn't fought in a long time, and I really wanted to get back in the Octagon. I think it was a great fight. Three rounds of action. The fans were happy, my coaches were happy, it was good all around.
The heavyweight division is crying out for an Anderson Silva-type champion to step up and dominate the rest, are you the man to do that?
I would love to fill that role.
You recently changed your entire training and management team, why? And has the change impacted your fighting style or conditioning?
Actually, thank you for the question and the chance to clear this up because there's a lot of confusion. Nothing has changed. I have all the same coaches. I am still with my boxing coach Luiz Carlos Dorea and with my jiu-jitsu coach Yuri Carlton, both of whom have been with me since - literally - the first boxing and jiu-jitsu classes I ever took.
I am also still on the same team, Team Nogueira. I have always been, and will always be, Team Nogueira. So nothing in my training, nutrition, preparation or anything has been impacted in any way. What I did was change managers, that's all. I used to have a manager and I wasn't happy with how the business of Junior Dos Santos was being handled, and it was stressing me out, so I changed course. It's all about finding the right people for you. What might be really good for one person might not be right for the next person. For me, things are good now. I am happy with how things are being handled.
Everybody keeps asking about the manager change, and the truth is, it is old news at this point. The only reason I tweeted about it when it happened was so people (like sponsors) would know how to find me; it was just a practical way to get the message out. I didn't intend for it to be treated like breaking news.
So, are you now based in Brazil or L.A?
I am based in Brazil, in Salvador, Bahia.
Coming back to your fight with Cain, do you believe this move to Fox in the U.S. and international shows like the one in Rio are the first step in mixed martial arts becoming the planet's biggest sport?
Wouldn't that be awesome? I think MMA is well on its way to becoming the biggest sport on the planet. Fox isn't a first step; the first step was a long time ago. Fox is the next step. It's the evolution of MMA, which through a lot of work of a lot of people has gained more recognition as a 'legitimate' sport. The UFC and other organizations fought an uphill battle for a while on that one.
Being on Fox is a sort of validation for all of us who have believed in this sport for so long. MMA's appeal crosses cultural and language barriers. If you're a human, you'll be able to understand MMA; fighting is in our DNA. Dana White says that all the time and it's true. And the atmosphere at a UFC fight is amazing. It's such a great energy, it's addictive. I would urge everyone who reads this article: if you haven't had a chance to go see a fight live, go! Come to Anaheim November 12th, I promise you at least one spectacular fight.
Finally, would you like to headline next year's UFC card in Brazil? What would that mean to you?
I would love to. It would be a dream come true to fight in Brazil, defending the UFC heavyweight title, of course. But right now, the only fight on my mind is my fight against Cain. That is my only focus.