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Former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos released from the UFC

UFC 252: Dos Santos v Rozenstruik Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos has been released from the UFC.

The Brazilian, who competed in the octagon for more than 12 years, announced the news on Instagram with additional sources confirming the move to MMA Fighting on Wednesday.

“Thanks UFC for a great 12 years!” dos Santos wrote. “I fought through MMA’s Murderer’s Row to get my shot at the belt. Holding and defending it was one of the great honors of my life.

“Thanks to every opponent, thanks to every fan and every critic. I’m going to spend some time back at the drawing board, but I’m excited to move on.”

Dos Santos joined the UFC roster all the way back in 2008 and made an immediate impact with a stunning upset with a first-round knockout against Fabricio Werdum. That started a nine-fight winning streak for “Cigano” as he rolled through the top fighters in the heavyweight division before finally getting his first shot at the title against Cain Velasquez in the UFC’s debut event as part of a broadcast deal with FOX.

It took dos Santos just 64 seconds to demolish Velasquez to claim the UFC heavyweight title.

While he dropped the belt in a rematch to Velasquez just over a year later, Dos Santos remained a constant threat to the best heavyweights in the UFC while competing for the title two more times in his career.

His run with the UFC ends after four consecutive losses in bouts against four top-10 ranked heavyweights including a TKO setback to Ciryl Gane in his most recent appearance in the octagon.

Dos Santos leaves the UFC with a 21-9 record overall with a 15-8 record in the promotion.

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