Dos Santos’ Rise From Bully Victim to UFC Champ

By Carlos Arias May 24, 2012



Junior dos Santos said he was never a good fighter when he was growing up.

He said he got into three street fights when he was a kid, never of his choosing. Each time he took a beating. He remembers one of his childhood tormenters, Rodrigo, because he still lives in the same neighborhood in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He doesn’t remember Rodrigo’s last name, but he remembers that beating.

Dos Santos grew into a 6-4, 240-pound UFC heavyweight champion with wrecking balls for fists. Rodrigo is still the same size as he was when they were pre-teens. Dos Santos and Rodrigo are friendly now and one assumes a rematch would go terribly bad for Rodrigo.

“I still see him. He’s like this,” said dos Santos, holding his hand low on his chest.

Dos Santos walked into a gym, much like a 24-Hour Fitness gym, the kind that can be found all throughout Orange County, about seven years ago. He noticed a Brazilian jiu-jitsu class being taught by Yuri Carlton and quickly enrolled. He excelled in jiu-jitsu and he got his first pro MMA fight a year later. He won by soccer kick to the head in the first round.

Six years later, dos Santos (14-1) is set to make the first defense of his UFC heavyweight title against former two-time UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir (16-5) in the main event of UFC 146 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on pay-per-view.

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