It sounds like Junior dos Santos has one name on the top of his wishlist when it comes to his next fight.
The former UFC heavyweight champion said after his UFC Boise main event win over Blagoy Ivanov on Saturday night that he has his eye on an old foe: Stipe Miocic. But “Cigano” told interviewer Jimmy Smith in the Octagon afterward that he didn’t know what would happen.
“I’m not sure, but a rematch with Miocic would be very welcome,” dos Santos said.
The two heavyweight stars have a long history. Dos Santos (19-5) beat Miocic at UFC on FOX 13 in 2014 by unanimous decision. Miocic got him back, successfully defending the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 211 over dos Santos by first-round TKO.
Miocic just lost the heavyweight belt to Daniel Cormier at UFC 226 last weekend. Before that, he was statistically the most successful heavyweight in UFC history, defending the title a record three consecutive times. Dos Santos has not held the gold since he lost it to Cain Velasquez in 2012.
Cormier is likely to defend the heavyweight title against Brock Lesnar next, sometime early year. That leaves everyone else to try to separate themselves from the pack.
“The heavyweight division, there is many, many interesting things happening,” dos Santos told Laura Sanko on the UFC Boise FS1 post-fight show. “Let’s sit down with my team and soon we will know.”
Dos Santos, 34, was coming back against Ivanov for the first time in more than one year. “Cigano” has been dealing with issues with the UFC’s anti-doping partner USADA, but got cleared earlier this year. This marked dos Santos’ first victory since 2016. He said the time off did affect him.
“I was feeling kind of weird,” dos Santos said. “All the time, I always say the timing of a fight is different than training. You have to be fighting to be on timing.”
Bottom line, though, dos Santos had a successful return against Ivanov, who came in as the former World Series of Fighting champion with just one loss. The Brazilian slugger was able to win every round despite the cage rust. And now he’s back in the conversation at heavyweight, like he has been for the better part of a decade.
“Against a guy so tough like this, only one defeat in his career, and I’m here doing this kind of performance?” dos Santos said. “I’m glad. I’ll be better for the next one.”