LOS ANGELES -- Since UFC 146, when heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos and former champion Cain Velasquez both scored dominant victories in the evening's co-feature bouts, it was expected dos Santos' next title defense would come against the man he beat to win the belt.
But according to UFC president Dana White, dos Santos has thrown a monkey wrench into the plans. White told reporters at Saturday night's UFC on FOX 4 postfight press conference that the champion has informed him he'd rather fight Alistair Overeem.
"I sat down with Junior dos Santos yesterday, the nicest guy in the world, right?" said White. "Seriously, you've all talked to him, he's the nicest guy in the world. He said, ‘I have nothing but respect for Cain Velasquez, as a person and as a fighter, and I think he deserves the shot at the title, but I do not want to fight him,' which is not what he said a month ago."
Perceived disrespect is the reason for dos Santos' change of heart. Overeem, who is serving a suspension after testing for elevated levels of testosterone in Nevada, has mouthed off publicly about the UFC heavyweight champion.
"[Dos Santos] said, ‘Alistair Overeem is a punk, he's got a big mouth, he's been saying lots of bad things about me, and I want to knock him out and I want to knock him out now,' said White. "And I said, ‘Junior, I like that. Alright.'"
White went out of his way to reiterate that he was simply relaying his heavyweight champion's words, and that a dos Santos-Overeem fight is nowhere near a done deal. Among the hurdles that remain are Overeem's suspension, which runs until late December.
"He's in trouble and he's going to have to do the time," White said of Overeem.
But the way White sees it, dos Santos has done everything the company has asked of him, so if he comes to White and makes such a request, he has to at least consider it.
"He's my heavyweight champion," said White. "He's one of those guys who, like Frankie Edgar, is a guy who's done everything we've ever asked of him, and he's never asked anything of us, so when a guy like him comes to me and wants something, yeah, I have to consider it."
White speculated on why Dos Santos had his change of heart.
"I don't know, he wants the fight," I'm not saying that's what's happening, I'm just saying to you that that's what he's saying. He's saying that he wants this fight, [dos Santos' management was] blowing me up saying they wanted to meet with me, we went to lunch yesterday and he just went off on what a punk he thinks Alistair Overeem is and how bad he wants to knock him out."