Ex-UFC Heavyweight Champ Junior Dos Santos to Make Pro Wrestling Debut for AEW

Junior Dos Santos and Dan Lambert, AEW Dynamite
Junior Dos Santos and Dan Lambert, AEW Dynamite Credit: Twitter/AEW

Following his release from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, former heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos has been in search of a new gig. At least temporarily, “Cigano” appears to have found one.

The affable Brazilian slugger has been appearing alongside American Top Team’s Dan Lambert of late, serving as an enforcer. On Wednesday’s episode of AEW Dynamite, the ATT coach set up a six-man tag team wrestling match between the “Men of the Year” (Scorpio Skye and Ethan page), plus Dos Santos, against Chris Jericho’s Inner Circle (likely to be comprised of Jericho, Bellator heavyweight Jake Hager, and AEW TNT champ Sammy Guevara).

That came following an in-ring confrontation involving JDS, Dalton Rosta, Paige VanZant, and the Men of the Year, with Dos Santos laying into a fallen Guevara until Jericho and Hager came to his aid.

Dos Santos (21-9) last fought for the UFC in December 2020, losing to current interim champ Ciryl Gane. It was the Brazilian’s fourth consecutive loss, with all four coming via TKO. Prior to that, Dos Santos had been sitting on a three-fight win streak.

“Cigano” won gold on the inaugural UFC on FOX card in 2011, knocking out Cain Velasquez. He defended the title once, against Frank Mir, before losing it back to Velasquez. He would also lose the rubber match of their trilogy in 2013, but would work his way back to a title shot against Stipe Miocic at UFC 211 in May of 2017.

Coincidentally, old rival Cain Velasquez also pursued a pro wrestling career following his exit from the UFC, first for AAA, and later for the WWE. Velasquez was released by World Wrestling Entertainment earlier this year.

Lambert’s promo on Wednesday night referred to the match with JDS coming at AEW Rampage in Miami on October 15. Rampage normally films alongside AEW Dynamite, which airs live, on Wednesdays. Rampage is then broadcast on Fridays — but the promotion’s stint in Miami sees Dynamite airing on Saturday, October 16, with a live Rampage going down on Friday.

Update, 10/07/201: Added details on back-to-back live events in Miami.