Las Vegas, NV — The last time we saw former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos in action was under the Eagle FC banner, facing off with Yorgan De Castro.
That was over a year ago now. And the end result of the fight was not what “Cigano” was looking for. Ahead on the scorecards, Dos Santos (21-10) tore his shoulder in the third round, resulting in an injury TKO loss and many, many months on the sidelines.
Since the May 2022 setback, the popular Brazilian fighter has been forced to endure not one but two surgeries to repair the injury, after the surgical screws used in the original operation came out of place.
“It took me some time, more than one year already to recover. It wasn’t easy, we did two surgeries actually,” Dos Santos told Cageside Press in an exclusive interview in conjunction with the upcoming Gamebred Bareknuckle 5 card, where he’ll face Fabricio Werdum. “We did the first one, and then something happened, the screws came out of place. I had to redo the surgery, and it wasn’t a small surgery, it was a big one.”
“It’s kind of, going through surgeries and things like that, it’s frustrating, it drains my energy and not in a good way,” Dos Santos admitted. “But it’s in the past already. Thank god I’m here, I’m healthy.”
Now preparing to fight an opponent in Werdum who he first met (and knocked out) in 2008, Dos Santos appears confident in the shoulder. “Finally I’m feeling strong again, training very hard, and the shoulder is responding to that. So I feel good to go in there and put 100% of me to win this.”
Gamebred Bareknuckle 5 is a bareknuckle MMA event, meaning it will have all the usual MMA rules, minus gloves. “The gloves are there to protect the hands, not the face of the guy! So now without the [gloves] we’ve got to be a little more cautious about it, little more careful,” said JDS, noting that broken hands could be a concern. “But I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for me. I feel good, and I think I can put on a good strategy to make the best of it for me.”
With so much time having passed since their first fight, Dos Santos wasn’t sure he’d ever face off with Fabricio Werdum again. Let alone 15 years later.
“We had some other opportunities to fight in the UFC. Actually the UFC offered me to fight him I think three times, I said yes to all of them but it didn’t happen. Now it’s happening, and it’s good, because Werdum, I became champion, he became champion later. We have a history, kind of a rivalry, things like that.”
“It makes me very excited to be here, to be fighting him again,” Dos Santos added. “These people, the fighting community, were talking about this rematch like you said through all these years. So it was something that was always there, and now finally the Gamebred show is putting it together. It for sure should come from somebody like Masivdal, who understands the scenario, understands the show. So let’s do it.”
Watch our full interview with Gamebred Bareknuckle 5’s Junior Dos Santos above. JDS faces Fabricio Werdum at the event on September 8, 2023 at the VySar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, FL.