Jailton Junior is a light heavyweight prospect fighting out of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. The 29-year-old fighter has been competing in mixed martial arts since September of 2012. And in his time in the sport, he’s risen to become one of the top 205lb prospects out of Brazil.
Junior has been around combat sports ever since he was a young child. Junior’s father was a boxer, and he was always around him, including when he would go to the gym and teach. At the age of eight, Junior started training in boxing. At the time, Junior’s father was a boxing coach to a pro fighter named Leonidas Gondim — who is actually Junior’s own coach in the present day.
For Junior, it wasn’t just boxing that caught his attention. At the age of eleven, Junior dabbled in jiu-jitsu. Junior was playing soccer at the same time he was practicing in BJJ. “I was actually alright as a soccer player, did tryouts for a few national soccer teams in my region but due to some heavy bureaucracy I wasn’t able to get a spot.” Junior told Cageside Press in a recent interview.
“Malhadinho” went from soccer, boxing, and BJJ to later pursuing MMA. He was supposed to debut as an amateur initially, but instead went straight into professional fights.
“Malhadinho” is the nickname giving to him by his coach. As a boxer, his coach was nicknamed “Malhado” so his coach calls him “Malhadinho” which means little malhado.
Junior made his MMA debut in 2012 and would get two wins before taking time off for four years before fighting again. “During those four years, a lot happened. I went through a lot of hardship. I lost my brother and had to step away from competition since I was in school and working full time.” Junior explained.
Now, Junior is a full-time MMA fighter who also teaches a few classes from time to time. Before being a full-time fighter he held an assortment of jobs: security officer, driver, he even worked at a car wash.
Currently, “Malhadinho” has a 13-2 record with five KO/TKOs and six submissions. He’s the current Thunder Fight and Fight On light heavyweight champion. Despite having so much to be proud of these days, earlier on, Junior had actually decided to quit fighting.
It was August 5, 2018 when Junior, who was 4-0 at the time, fought 17-fight veteran Tyago Moreira. In a result nobody expected, especially Junior, he was knocked out only 16 seconds into the first round.
“It was a huge setback for me and I had decided to stop fighting,” admitted Junior. “My coach called me back and brought me back to the gym and said he knew I could be the number one in Brazil and that I couldn’t stop now because of this setback. I realized that this really is what I want for my life.”
Junior is a natural 205’er, but he has fought at heavyweight, and started his journey crazily enough at middleweight. In fact, it was at middleweight when Jailton Junior put on what he believes to be his best performance.
“My favorite fight was against Fagner Rakchal. I wasn’t supposed to fight him but his opponent fell ill after a tough weight cut, and my opponent had some logistical problems and didn’t make it to the event,” Junior recalled. “So the promoter suggested we fight each other. He knocked me down and I was able to get a massive comeback TKOing him after being almost out.”
“I was talking to my head coach about this not long ago and I don’t see any chances of making 185lbs again. It was already a very tough cut back when I had a smaller frame and now I think it would be near impossible,” continued Junior. “It just wasn’t a healthy weight class for me. Now I believe I can fight at a world-class level at both light heavyweight and at heavyweight. I don’t see any heavyweights around that can deal with two rounds of the pressure I can put on them without gassing.”
“I believe I have shown all I could here in Brazil. The same thing I have done here (Brazil) I will do there in the UFC.”
According to Tapology, Junior is the number one light heavyweight out of Brazil (outside of major promotions). With just two defeats and thirteen wins, he is currently on a huge eight-fight win streak.
“Thank God I am coming off an 8-fight win streak. I think a lot changed regarding my mindset towards competition,” Junior told us. “I think I also found my optimal fight style and that is extremely important for a fighter to achieve success in competition.”
Junior is on the verge of a UFC call and there is a lot of hype behind him. There aren’t many light heavyweight prospects that jump out but Junior is easily one that does. Brazil does have an endless amount of high-level fighters so it’s easily to get lost in the shuffle. But Junior stands out.
“You can expect someone always putting pressure on his opponents and someone always looking for a finish. I look up a lot to the style of Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and I hope to be able to become a reference to that style of relentless pressure at light heavyweight and heavyweight.” Junio told Cageside Press.
“I believe I have shown all I could here in Brazil. The same thing I have done here (Brazil) I will do there in the UFC. I just need an opportunity to get in there and the rest I will take care of,” he stated. “I worked very hard to have a 100% finish rate and I don’t plan on dropping that in the UFC.”