Dos Santos won the heavyweight title in one of the most watched fights in history
After four consecutive losses, former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos has parted ways with the UFC. Dos Santos confirmed earlier reports of the news on Wednesday with a post on his Instagram account.
„Thanks, UFC for a great 12 years!“ Dos Santos wrote on Instagram. „I fought through MMA’s Murderer’s Row to get my shot at the belt. Holding and defending it was one of the great honors of my life. Thanks to every opponent, thanks to every fan and every critic. I’m going to spend some time back at the drawing board, but I’m excited to move on.“
Dos Santos first set foot in the Octagon in October 2008, debuting against future fellow heavyweight champion Fabrício Werdum. In his first seven fights with the promotion, dos Santos won every bout while scoring five knockouts. In November 2011, dos Santos finally got a chance at the UFC heavyweight championship, facing Cain Velasquez in the main event of the UFC’s first ever card on FOX. In one of the most watched fights in MMA history, dos Santos knocked out Velasquez in just 64 seconds to win the title.
After successfully defending the title against Frank Mir, dos Santos dropped the title in a rematch with Velasquez. He would remain as a force in the heavyweight rankings for years, failing to win the title back against both Velasquez in their trilogy fight and current champion Stipe Miocic.
In 2019, dos Santos’ career took a downward turn. After having previously successfully rebounded from every defeat, dos Santos would suffer four consecutive knockout losses, the most recent a TKO loss to rising contender Ciryl Gane in December. ESPN reports that dos Santos had five fights remaining on his deal.
In addition to dos Santos, heavyweight mainstay Alistair Overeem is also on his way out of the UFC on the heels of a second-round TKO loss to Alexander Volkov in February. ESPN noted that Overeem still had two fights left on his deal. Overeem acknowledged the move on Instagram, seeming to announce his retirement in the process.
„The final run has come to an end, but what a run it has been. Looking back at my 10 years in the UFC, this has been the experience of a lifetime“ Overeem wrote. „Huge thank you to the entire UFC staff, the fans and all the fighters I came across. Couldn’t have wished for any other better career path. A special thank you to Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta for making everything possible. Fighting for all of you has been such an honor.“
The news comes after statements from UFC president Dana White that the the promotion was looking to overhaul its roster, resulting in many fighters being cut.