BOISE, Idaho – As he prepares to snap a more than year-long layoff, UFC Fight Night 133 headliner Junior Dos Santos is happy, ready and looking forward to the “bright future” ahead.
For the UFC’s former heavyweight champion to get here, though, he first had to overcome a very different type of fight: the one for his reputation, after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency flagged him for a potential doping violation last August.
“That was the biggest fight, to fight for my reputation and everything that I believe and everything that I said before,” Dos Santos told MMAjunkie ahead of Saturday’s FS1-televised headliner against Blagoy Inanov. “Because I was loud, always supporting USADA, and then everything was happening against me. (I’d never seen) myself going through something like that. But it was happening, and I had to deal with that. It was a very bad moment of my career, of my life.”
Dos Santos previously talked to MMAjunkie about his ordeal in detail. While it had a happy ending, as he was able to show that the traces of the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide found on his body were the result of tainted supplements, it was a long, costly process.
Between the time he was flagged and the time he was publicly cleared of wrong-doing, nine months elapsed. The feelings as he awaited a resolution were mixed: As confident as he was that things would eventually get sorted out, the Brazilian knew there was a limit to what he could do to prove he was innocent should they end up determining he wasn’t.
As shown by the fact that Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) gets to meet Ivanov (16-1-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on Saturday at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, Idaho, things did work out. He took a six-month suspension and proved that he hadn’t knowingly cheated.
Dos Santos still support’s USADA’s efforts toward a cleaner sport, though maybe with some adjustments – especially in the way they go about cases like his, in which the minimal amounts indicate contamination from the get-go. Still, he can’t shake some things off.
“Of course I’m afraid now,” Dos Santos said. “Every time they get in my house, I’m nervous. Because I don’t know. I wasn’t doing anything wrong before. There’s nothing to learn. They asked me, ‘What have you learned from that?’ Nothing. I was doing everything right. I was doing everything the best I could.
“I don’t take any type of drug. I don’t drink alcohol. I don’t smoke. I don’t do anything like this. They say I’m a boring guy, but I’m a very happy guy, actually.”
Even amid the uncertainty, Dos Santos never stopped showing up for practice at American Top Team. That allowed him to follow his plan to return as soon as he was cleared to do so. Given the name of former WSOF champion Ivanov, “JDS” didn’t wince.
Taking on a promotional newcomer might seem like an oddly risky decision for a former champion looking to make his way to the top. But, quite frankly, Dos Santos wasn’t too concerned as to who’d be the one standing across him inside the cage.
“I love this sport,” Dos Santos said. “I love who I am. To be here, to be Junior Dos Santos, for me – I can’t see myself doing anything else right now. I’m 34 years old, young.”
Dos Santos kept watching fights, too, and knows quite well that he’s returning at an interesting time for the division. Just last Saturday, a new champion was crowned, when now two-division champion Daniel Cormier beat Stipe Miocic the UFC 226 headliner.
For someone like Dos Santos, who had a failed title shot in a rematch against Miocic, the fact that there’s new leader atop the division can be a good sign. And while that’s not lost on him, Dos Santos is still eyeing that trilogy with his fellow fallen champ.
“When you become the champion, you become a target,” Dos Santos said. “Now, the new target for the heavyweight division is Daniel Cormier. Everybody, of course, wants to fight him., including me. And eventually, at some point, it’s going to happen. But the division is living a good moment. I want to do this third fight with Miocic, too.
“That could be a good fight for one of these shows. There are many good fights. The heavyweight division is living a good moment and we can give the fans a lot of excitement.”
With Cormier’s next heavyweight title defense pretty much set to occur against Brock Lesnar, what if Dos Santos’ desired Miocic trilogy served to elect a No. 1 contender?
“I would love that,” Dos Santos said, adding with a laugh. “I wasn’t thinking about that, but that’s a good idea. Our third fight and then the winner fights for the title, maybe. Good.”
To hear more from Dos Santos, watch the video above.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: USADA ordeal behind him, Junior Dos Santos ready for UFC Boise – and high-stakes trilogy after