It appears that number one UFC heavyweight contender Junior dos Santos will not have to wait for UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez to recover to receive his title shot after all. Yahoo! Sports columnist Kevin Iole stated on Larry Pepe’s Pro MMA Radio show yesterday that dos Santos will face a yet-to-be-determined opponent for the UFC interim heavyweight championship.
“[Dos Santos] is going to fight for an interim title. They just have to find a contender to fight him,” said Iole. “So for that one, I don’t think he should have to wait because he was going to fight for a championship. The UFC will declare the winner of Dos Santos versus ‘X’ the interim champion, so it is his championship fight.”
An interim heavyweight title fight will make it the third time in as many years that an interim championship has been created for the heavyweight division, with Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, Frank Mir (who defeated Nogueira for the interim title) and Shane Carwin all having donned the interim title since 2008.
“He [Dos Santos] will go down in history if he wins that fight; even if he loses subsequently to Cain on the way back, he’ll be known as a former UFC heavyweight champion, just like Frank Mir’s second reign,” Iole explained. “When Shane Carwin beat Mir he became the interim champion, so there were guys that even though the belt was out, they were still recognized as a champion. I think that situation is very simple. Dos Santos should fight, he will fight, they’ll find a heavyweight contender he’ll fight for the interim championship while Cain heals and that will be that.”
Velasquez is expected to be out of action for at least the next 6-8 months to rehab a shoulder injury. dos Santos had recently expressed a desire to risk his title shot by taking a fight before Velasquez due to the amount of time he will have spent inactive–his last fight was in August–and also by his need to make a living.
dos Santos is a pupil under Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and frequently trains with the likes of UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. He holds a professional record of 12-1 and has gone undefeated while fighting in the UFC, taking out the likes of Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson.
Who do you think Junior dos Santos should face for the interim title? Should Brock Lesnar be back in the mix? Should an interim title even be created at all? Let us know in our “Comments” section below.
Thanks to Mark Wayne for contributing to this article.