UFC president Dana White recently announced that the promotion will go through “serious cuts” to its roster, letting go around 60 fighters before the end of the year, but that won’t add extra pressure over the shoulders of former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos.
Those comments were made when White confirmed the release of multiple-time middleweight title contender Yoel Romero, who parted ways with the company 1-4 in his past five octagon appearances, with most of those bouts being championship contests.
“Cigano,” who returns to the cage at Saturday’s UFC 256 in Las Vegas to battle undefeated prospect Ciryl Gane, is looking to snap the first three-fight losing skid of his career after suffering knockout losses to Francis Ngannou, Curtis Blaydes and Jairzinho Rozenstruik.
That said, dos Santos only worries about what he can control, which is his upcoming clash with Gane.
“I heard (White) say that, but, honestly, I’m focused on my next fight,” dos Santos said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I thought Romero’s release was really weird and even unfair. What you mentioned about Romero possibly being expensive for the UFC, that’s definitely far from any reality. Nothing is expensive for the UFC. The UFC can’t say any athlete is expensive.
“Everyone has their own relationship with the UFC, their story, and athletes are the ones who make the show. There’s no way an athlete is expensive for the UFC. (The UFC) might want to benefit from signing cheaper athletes, but not that a fighter is expensive for the UFC because the show is always made by the athletes.”
“I thought this Romero situation was really weird, but I haven’t thought much about it,” he continued. “The way our contract is (structured), the UFC can release us or cancel our contracts at any moment, so that’s constant in our careers. Maybe they are planning massive cuts now, but that can happen at any moment. It’s part of our run in the UFC.
“My intention is to always go for the victory and stay in the promotion because my biggest goal is to go for the belt. Things haven’t gone my way, unfortunately, but, when we’re talking about heavyweights, everyone will always respect when they say my name.”
“Cigano” reigned in the UFC’s heavyweight class with wins over the likes of Cain Velasquez, Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum and Shane Carwin starting in 2008, but has struggled putting a streak together after losing his belt in 2012. Dos Santos has beaten some top competition since, including Stipe Miocic, Derrick Lewis and Mark Hunt, but now deals with an unprecedented skid.
“I’m on a very difficult moment in my career,” he said. “This fight obviously is very important for me, it’s a fight I want to win like any other. I don’t come here to lose or draw, I’m always there to win. I hope this experience I’m going through in my career can favor me in the sense of getting the victory. But I’m ready. That’s what really matters to me.”
The heavyweight veteran admits it’s “frustrating” to deal with consecutive defeats. In fact, he was hoping to have the Gane fight in January so he had a proper training camp at American Top Team, but the UFC wanted to add this match to December’s pay-per-view.
“I’m feeling really well and I’ll go there to impose my strategy against my opponent,” dos Santos said. “He’s a tough guy, but everyone is in this division. Like I said, I’m experiencing what everybody says about heavyweights, that a fight ends when one hand lands. That’s how my last fights have gone, and I’ll make sure it won’t happen this time — actually, that it’s the opposite, that my hands drop him.”
Gane is “very versatile, good, fast for the division, moves really well” and has proven his talent despite only having six professional bouts under his belt, dos Santos said. Yet, “Cigano” guarantees he’s had a great camp and is confident he will have his hands raised at the UFC APEX on Saturday night, stopping Gane with punches.
“That’s how I always see myself in every fight, making it happen and the hands landing,” dos Santos said. “But I’m obviously prepared for everything. I’ve always trained everything in my life. I always use my boxing because that’s what I love doing, the power of my hands. I’m going into this fight with the same goal, which is go for the knockout, but I’m obviously prepared for anything that happens.”