Antonio Carlos Junior believes the 2021 PFL light heavyweight championship will be contested between two winners of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil.
“Cara de Sapato”—who won TUF as a heavyweight back in 2014—is set to clash with Emiliano Sordi in a semifinal bout this Friday night at PFL 9, while original TUF: Brazil winner Cezar Ferreira takes on Marthin Hamlet on the other side of the bracket.
PFL 9 takes place at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., and airs live on ESPN2.
“I’m rooting for ‘Mutante,’ my countryman,” Junior said in an interview with MMA Fighting. “I hope for a Brazilian final because that way the belt stays in Brazil in the end. And he’s a super nice guy, we’re very close, we chat every time we meet. He’s a super nice guy who deserves it. I’ll be rooting for him, no doubt. I hope he advances. He can count on my [positive] energy.”
A PFL championship duel between TUF: Brazil winners “would be great,” he continued. “That’s my wish. I hope he advances and we can make this final between Brazilian champions.”
Junior must get past 2019 PFL champion Sordi to get to the million-dollar clash though, and sees it as “a great challenge” even though the Argentine fighter hasn’t been as “dominant” in 2021 as he was during his run inside the PFL cage in 2019.
“He was more dominant in his fights in 2019,” Junior said. “His two performances this year weren’t his best. I hope he continues like that [laughs], not giving his best. He’s very tough, but there are some holes in his game there. Still, he hits really hard, fights all the time, is always coming forward regardless of how tired he is. He has a ton of heart and guys like that are hard to fight. He never gives up.
“He hits hard, we’ve seen him knock everybody out the past season and he’s the current PFL champion. We have to get in with the right strategy to be able to come out with the win.”
Junior has faced and beaten the likes of Marvin Vettori and Tim Boetsch under the UFC banner, but parted ways with the company in 2021 following decisions setbacks to Uriah Hall, Ian Heinisch and Brad Tavares. With all of that experience under his belt,Junior sees Sordi as being “as tough as all of them” but vows to take him to deep waters.
“It would be great to submit him early,” he laughed. “I don’t know [how I’ll win], man. I see him having a good first round and then slowing down a bit. I believe that bringing the fight to later rounds will put me in advantage. It’s hard to predict how a fight will go, but I think the betting odds are probably indicating a submission more than anything else.”