Junior dos Santos is currently the number one UFC heavyweight contender, a spot he has earned by cutting a path through the heavyweight division aided by his quick and heavy hands.
Though he is now one of the most feared heavyweights on the planet, everyone has to get their start somewhere and, like many great Brazilian fighters, dos Santos began his tutelage under Pride FC veteran and MMA legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.
“Minotauro” recently spoke to Sherdog.com about dos Santos’ development; Big Nog revealed that he turned “Cigano” away when they first trained together on account of the younger fighter’s need for improvement, but saw the makings of a champion when dos Santos returned to the gym a year and a half later.
“He had great determination and came to Rio de Janeiro alone,” said Nogueira. “He had yet to evolve, but we could see he had the coordination and capacity to improve. I remember Dos Santos at the beginning of his training and then against Werdum [at UFC 90]. At first, he was a fighter. After he spent three months with us, he was a different guy. In three months, he showed great evolution with his training. Nobody took him to the ground. He gained great confidence, and we said at that point that it was going to be impossible to defeat him. Nobody else could take him to the ground, which is why I didn’t think Werdum would be able to. That’s exactly what happened.”
By collecting impressive wins over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Gilbert Yvel, Gabriel Gonzaga and Roy Nelson during his UFC tenure, dos Santos earned himself a shot at Cain velasquez’s belt. With Velasquez currently out of action while rehabbing a shoulder injury, dos Santos has accepted a bout against the heavy-handed Shane Carwin which will take place this Saturday night in the main event of UFC 131 at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia.