When an injury forced UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez to the sidelines for the better part of 2011, many wondered what would be befall his top challenger Junior Dos Santos, who was waiting in the wings for his title shot at the newly crowned belt holder.
Dos Santos stated right after the injury announcement was made that he would not be waiting around for six to eight months for Velasquez to return because that would put him out of action for a year as well, having last fought in August 2010.
The solution? Dos Santos will coach opposite Brock Lesnar on the 13th installment of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show, which began filming early this week.
“Dana called on New Year’s Day. A few days earlier it was announced that Cain was injured. He said it was up to Junior, does he want to sit and wait for Cain or does he want to fight. Junior said no, he wants to stay busy,” Dos Santos’ manager Ed Soares said when talking about how his fighter got on TUF 13.
“Our first choice, and he rightfully deserves it, was to fight for the title, but considering that couldn’t happen, I think this is the next best thing that could have happened for his career. And in the long run, it might be a better path. To get the exposure that they’re going to get on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and then to fight a guy like Brock Lesnar, who is such a huge draw, I think it’s a pretty good solution to the problem.”
There’s no denying that Lesnar may very well be the biggest draw in all of mixed martial arts and while Dos Santos has rocketed up the rankings with his high powered wins, he still hasn’t reached the biggest part of the demographic yet. “The Ultimate Fighter” might help to change that.
The other biggest part of the challenge ahead for Dos Santos is staying busy. Fighters coming off of long layoffs have traditionally had mixed results. Whether for injuries or just sitting and waiting, most fighters agree that sitting on the sidelines for months at a time affects them come fight night.
Dos Santos also benefits financially from staying busy and going on the reality show, which is another reason the Brazilian opted to fight instead of sitting and waiting.
“I think it’s important for fighters to stay busy and keep fighting, that’s how they make they’re money. Unfortunately, some of these fighters, they still make most of their money from the fight purse; it’s not with sponsorship. You’ve got to fight to stay alive, he’s got to pay his bills. His last fight was in August and who knows when Cain would have been able to be back and fight,” Soares explained.
“I think (Dos Santos) needs to stay sharp and he’s gotta not have any ring rust.”
The payoff of course will show in the ratings when the show debuts in March and then in June when Dos Santos meets Lesnar in the main event of the pay-per-view for that month, tentatively titled UFC 131.
If Dos Santos is successful in that fight then he will welcome Cain Velasquez back to the Octagon later in 2011 with the UFC heavyweight title on the line.