Junior dos Santos | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
A few weeks ago, Junior dos Santos received the frustrating news: UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez was out of action, sidelined for six to eight months with a torn rotator cuff. Dos Santos, the division’s No. 1 contender, would have to wait for his shot at gold.
Rather than sitting on the shelf and awaiting Velasquez’s return, however, “Cigano” agreed to serve as one of the coaches on the 13th season of UFC reality television program “The Ultimate Fighter.”
The 26-year-old Brazilian will coach opposite former champion Brock Lesnar on the show, after which the pair will square off on June 11 at UFC 131, an event expected to take place at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver. The winner of that match, according to UFC President Dana White, will become the next challenger for Velasquez’s belt.
Despite the chance that he could lose his spot in the title queue, Cigano is taking the change in stride.
“My next fight would have been for the belt, but this one will be welcome, too. It will enhance my résumé a lot,” Dos Santos told Sherdog.com. “I liked the choice and the opportunity to be a coach on the reality show [and] it will be a great challenge. My English is not 100 percent, but I’ll do my best and I’m sure I’ll be good.”
While his involvement with “TUF” has helped ease the frustration of being unable to face Velasquez, Dos Santos ensures that he remains focused on capturing the heavyweight belt.
“I’ll do my job and keep after that belt. This has always been my goal,” said Dos Santos, who shared some thoughts on his upcoming opponent and rival coach.
“Lesnar is a tough guy. He’s great. He’s very different from Cain Velasquez, because he’s larger, but a bit slower. But he’s just as dangerous as Cain. It will be different, but I’ll keep working on the same things, which are my takedown defense and boxing.”
At the moment, the Brazilian heavyweight is in the process of assembling the crew of trainers who will assist him during “TUF 13,” which begins taping in Las Vegas on Jan. 26.
“I’m still picking my team. Luiz Dorea will be the boxing coach. Billy [Schiebe], an American friend, should be the muay Thai coach. I’m thinking of someone else for jiu-jitsu, and the wrestling coach could be Rodrigo Artilheiro, who is very good, and speaks both Portuguese and English, which helps with communication. I think early next week, we’ll have the full team.”