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Junior dos Santos in talks for boxing debut, calls Fedor Emelianenko vs. Tim Johnson booking ‘a bit disappointing’

Junior dos Santos
Junior dos Santos was hoping to face Fedor Emelianenko under the Bellator banner in Russia.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Tim Johnson was selected as the next man to face Fedor Emelianenko inside the Bellator cage on Oct. 23, when the company makes its debut in Russian soil, and that decision left Junior dos Santos unsatisfied.

“Cigano,” a former UFC heavyweight champion, was hoping to be the one to face “The Last Emperor” after becoming a free agent earlier this year. Alistair Overeem, Josh Barnett and Fabricio Werdum also threw their names in the hat for that opportunity, but Johnson, who recently challenged for the interim gold in Bellator, was granted the spot.

“I know a little about Tim Johnson — in fact, almost nothing,” dos Santos said in an interview with MMA Fighting.

Johnson went 3-3 in the UFC between 2015 and 2018, parting ways following a win over Marcelo Golm, and lost back-to-back in Bellator before kicking off a winning streak over Tyrell Fortune, Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo that earned him a shot at an interim belt. Johnson lost to Emelianenko protege Valentin Moldavsky via decision in June.

“Not trying to sound disrespectful or anything like that, but at first I was very hopeful that I would be a great option for Fedor, to close his career,” dos Santos said. “My idea is that he wanted a great fight, a fight that really interested the fans and made people excited to watch. That would be the case with options like myself, Overeem, and even Werdum. I was imagining something along those lines, something that made sense in my head, but it was completely the opposite of what I was imagining.

“He ended up choosing Tim Johnson. I don’t know how the fight will go, I’m not judging anything, but I believe it would be way more interesting, or at least would get a bit more attention, if it were Overeem, Werdum, me, Josh Barnett. He’s the greatest champion in heavyweight history, I’m a fan os Fedor, but, for his last fight, [I thought] he probably wanted to gift fans with a super fight, one that called the attention of the entire world, but it wasn’t the path he followed. I don’t understand why, but it was a bit disappointing, I can’t say it wasn’t.”

It’s still unclear if this will be Emelianenko’s retirement bout. “Cigano,” however, admits he started to feel less confident as time went by.

“I started to reflect about it, ‘I think I’m not even an option for him because I would definitely offer him a lot of work,’” he said. “To me, it would be an honor to face Fedor and would obviously give 100 percent to win inside the cage, and I don’t know, maybe that’s not what he was expecting.”

The UFC heavyweight veteran holds wins over the likes of Cain Velasquez, Fabricio Werdum, Stipe Miocic, Derrick Lewis, Mark Hunt and Frank Mir but left the UFC on a four-fight losing skid. Dos Santos isn’t sure if he will continue to discuss a deal with Bellator now that the Emelianenko fight is no longer available, but hopes to have news “soon.”

Boxing is an option, “Cigano” said, but negotiations for a fight on the same card of the rumored match between Logan Paul and Anderson Silva didn’t advance.

“But we have another offer on the table and we’re studying it, trying to get a good deal,” dos Santos said. “Like I said, I’ve decided that my intention is to continue with my career. I still have a lot of wood to burn, I’m feeling great, but I’m not rushing anything. My next step will be very important and I don’t want to rush anything just to fight. I want it to be relevant and that makes sense for my career.

“We have good conversations going on, but, for now, it’s just talk. We’ll get something done soon and ‘Cigano’ will be back to be able to go for that knockout that people love to watch.”

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