For nearly 11 years, Junior dos Santos has been ranked as one of the best heavyweight fighters in all of mixed martial arts, but despite all that he has already accomplished, the 35-year old Brazilian is far from finished.
This is the second time dos Santos has been paired up with Ngannou after they were originally scheduled to meet back in 2017. At that time, dos Santos had to deal with the United States Anti-Doping Agency after a drug test was flagged ahead of the fight.
While dos Santos was found to be the victim of a tainted supplement, the fight with Ngannou fell apart and the opportunity to face him again didn’t come around until now.
Looking back at that originally scheduled fight, dos Santos was fresh off a knockout loss to then-heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and many believed he was being thrown into the fire against a young, hungry contender like Ngannou.
For his part, dos Santos begs to differ because he felt extremely confident about the matchup and he truly believes he would have derailed Ngannou’s reign of terror long before he got his shot at the heavyweight title.
“The truth is that was good for him. Because if he had to fight me at that time, he wouldn’t have fought for the title,” dos Santos stated when speaking to MMA Fighting. “He wouldn’t have fought Miocic because I would have beat him that time. Now it’s going to happen finally.
“He wants this fight. I want this fight, too. Everybody is talking about this guy and he’s the biggest challenge in the heavyweight division right now. That’s what most people think. So that’s the fight I want.”
When it comes to the threat he possesses in a fight, the story on Ngannou is well documented.
The 6-foot-5 Cameroon native packs arguably the most devastating punch in the history of mixed martial arts. Even glancing blows from Ngannou do the kind of damage that most fighters can only hope to generate with their best shots.
In his last two fights, Ngannou has dispatched of both Curtis Blaydes and former heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez in a combined 76-seconds. Dos Santos definitely doesn’t discount the sheer power that Ngannou has in his hands but he doesn’t feel that alone can carry him through a fight like this where he’s facing one of the top boxers the UFC heavyweight division has ever seen.
“He has a lot of power. If he connects a good punch on you, you’re out. That’s 100 percent sure. But too much power without the right control is useless,” dos Santos said. “So I’m going to take the best of Ngannou and if he’s not ready to show me his best, he’s going to get knocked out. I’m going to come to knock him out for this fight.
“I believe I have more skills than him. I have better boxing. I know he was talking about even fighting in boxing. This could be a good chance for him to have a boxing fight because I’m not going away from the standup game with him. I’m ready to stand up and bang against him. I hope he’s ready for that, too. Because I’m sure the fans will love it. I can knock anyone out in this division and Ngannou is going to be the next guy. I even have enough boxing to beat boxing champions.”
If dos Santos gets his desired result with a knockout against Ngannou, he then hopes to move onto challenge for the UFC heavyweight title against the winner of the upcoming UFC 241 main event between reigning champion Daniel Cormier and Miocic.
“I will do everything to win and then move onto the title shot,” dos Santos said.
Winning back the heavyweight title has always been dos Santos’s long term goal ever since he lost the belt back in 2012.
At that time, dos Santos was not only the most feared heavyweight in all of mixed martial arts, he was also one of the first UFC athletes to call for a crossover fight against a boxing champion and he’s never forgotten it.
“Back when I was the champion in 2012, I challenged Wladimir Klitschko, he was the champion at that time, and I said I would beat Wladimir Klitschko in a boxing match but of course I’m not a good promoter like Conor McGregor and he got the fight against [Floyd] Mayweather,” dos Santos said. “Klitschko actually replied to me, he said anytime, anywhere, something like that. But then I lost my belt, I lost the fight to Velasquez and I lost the belt so it didn’t make much sense anymore to promote that fight.
“Now my biggest goal is to go back, fight for the title in the UFC, take the belt back and then start promoting a fight against one of the boxing champions.”
Dos Santos even has a fight in mind that he feels could easily be promoted to test in his boxing skills against another terrifying knockout puncher.
“I think and I already have this idea in my mind who it could be. It could be Deontay Wilder because everything I see about Deontay, he’s a great champion, he knocks everybody out and he doesn’t run away from a good match,” dos Santos said. “He accepts all the matches. Some of the guys pick fights but this guy is not picking fights. He’s fighting everybody. So I think if we have a good match and we are able to make people want to see that fight and there’s a chance it could happen.
“I’ve been watching him for a long time. I actually admire him. His boxing skills are different but I think that’s the perfect match for me. I can see many, many holes in his game. Can you imagine I’m not worrying about no takedowns, no kicks, no jiu-jitsu, only boxing. That would be paradise for me.”
Before he can worry about Wilder or even the UFC heavyweight title, dos Santos first has to get through Ngannou this weekend.
“I’m going to knock him out. He’s going to go down,” dos Santos predicted for his fight against Ngannou. “The referee is going to have to stop me. Like I did with the [Derrick] Lewis fight. Everybody was talking about his power and that I would have no chance if I stand up and bang with him. I went there and I knocked him out and I’m going to do this again with this guy Francis Ngannou.
“It’s not disrespect, I respect him. Actually I’m putting a lot of respect on this match because I’m getting very well prepared. There’s no better way to respect an athlete than getting very well prepared to fight him and that’s what I’m doing right now.”