Alan Belcher and Roy Nelson will clash for the Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA heavyweight title on Oct. 28 in Jackson, Miss., and it appears that Junior dos Santos is already waiting on the sidelines for the next championship bout.
“Cigano” revealed on this week’s episode of MMA Fighting podcast Trocação Franca that he was told by promotion leader Jorge Masvidal that he’s next for the belt after defeating Fabricio Werdum via decision in the main event of Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA 5 this past Friday in Florida.
“We’ll be fighting for the Gamebred belt in January and then hope there’s a boxing match soon after,” dos Santos said. “[Belcher and Nelson] will fight in October, and the winner will fight me for the belt in January.”
Belcher left the sport of MMA in 2013 on back-to-back UFC defeats to Michael Bisping and Yushin Okami and returned as a boxer in 2021, racking up 10 straight victories with nine stoppages in both regular and bareknuckle bouts. Nelson, who lost a decision to “Cigano” back in 2010, recently knocked out Dillon Cleckler in his bareknuckle MMA debut.
“Alan Belcher has some experience in bareknuckle so that might benefit him,” dos Santos said, “but Roy Nelson is a warrior. I’m a fan of his fighting style. I believe he could come out victorious on this one.”
Dos Santos outpointed and cut Werdum open during their three-round contest in Jacksonville, and said he “felt great” inside the cage not only due to the unique ruleset, but also for not adding too much pressure over his shoulders. “Cigano” knocked Werdum out the first time they met 15 years ago, a win that forever changed his career.
“I said prior to this fight that this fight was going to be against my opponent only, that I wouldn’t be fighting myself like I’ve been doing since the beginning,” he said. “I think I’ve managed something I’ve never done before. This was the first time I felt so well, so relaxed and focused. The idea was to win and give my best, of course, but without all that added pressure like, ‘I have to win, I have to do this.’ I had none of that, I just had to go there and enjoy the moment like I’ve never done before.”
Dos Santos is now focused on competing for the Gamebred Bareknuckle MMA title in early 2024, but won’t forget his life-long dream of entering the squared circle for a traditional boxing match.
“The main plan, even before this fight, was to box great boxing champions, to offer the MMA [world] a real chance to really beat these boxers,” dos Santos said. “We have these MMA vs. boxing matches these days, but it’s a completely different sport. MMA guys have no clue, they think they can box because they are good strikers, but it’s not that simple. Boxing is a completely different sport. Boxing is my background, so if there’s anyone who can drop these boxing champions, that’s me.”