Once the most feared heavyweight on the planet, Junior dos Santos, is trying to build himself back up.
Victorious in only two of his last five UFC fights and finished twice inside the Octagon, "Cigano" decided to change a few things. He moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro to train at Nova Uniao and then headed to Florida’s American Top Team. However, dos Santos realized that the most important change he needed was inside of his own mind.
"Sometimes we try too much to find answers for things that maybe have no answers," dos Santos told MMAFighting.com. "I realized I was expecting to find someone who could answer my questions and guide me. It’s important to have someone guiding you and showing you the best way, of course, but sometimes we just have to find ourselves. Sometimes we sabotage ourselves, and that’s happening to me a bit. I’m sabotaging myself. No confidence, that hunger I always had. I was sabotaging myself.
"I see many mistakes I was making. I know I have to work on them, and I am. I have to find myself instead of looking for answers from others, instead of waiting for someone to bring solutions. I have to find my own solutions and fight my biggest opponent, who right now is me."
He doesn’t regret changing camps, though. "Cigano" believes that going to different gyms help him evolve as a mixed martial artist, but being a great striker can’t stop him from becoming better as a wrestler and grappler.
"It might relate to that, yes, but what I wanted when I went to Nova Uniao and now here was to find a better structure to train and become a well-rounded fighter," he said. "I had my game, and everyone can see that I’m having trouble… I believe in my game so much that it’s hard to do something else. I don’t want to change, I want to be who I am, but better. That’s why I’m adding more weapons to my arsenal, more experience with training.
"I’m always thankful to those who helped me before, we’re still a team and will always be, but we have to go after something more. We tend to think that the unknown is better. Sometimes we’re right, but sometimes we’re not. That’s why we have to go after it. I had tough experiences, learned a lot with all this as an athlete and a person. In a way, it all made me stronger for this new phase of my life, that I’m sure will be positive.
"I can clearly see the mistakes I made. And they were a lot," he continued. "Of course, changing teams, gyms, not having the coaches I always had around me, like (Luiz) Dorea… I don’t know. I won’t put blame on them for this. I’m not giving any excuses. (Alistair Overeem) was better than me, he had a strategy and was able to win. But I’m glad he decided to stay in the UFC so we can do a rematch in the future. I’m being positive about all this. I can see myself winning fights and fighting for the title soon. If it’s against him, even better."
dos Santos will have the chance to prove he’s a better fighter on April 10, when he headlines Sunday's UFC Fight Night 86 in Zagreb, Croatia, against Ben Rothwell.