Junior dos Santos found out that Brock Lesnar was out of their UFC 131 headliner at the same time as the rest of the world: Thursday afternoon, when UFC President Dana White announced it during an emergency media conference call.
Dos Santos, who coached opposite the former UFC heavyweight champion on the currently airing 13th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” was naturally a bit surprised to hear out of the blue that he’ll now meet Shane Carwin on June 11 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, B.C., Canada.
“I got a little upset about this change, but I’m happy that the UFC got another opponent for me,” Dos Santos told Sherdog.com Thursday evening. “Carwin is an excellent fighter and deserves all my respect.”
The opponent swap is not the first curveball the 26-year-old Brazilian has been thrown in recent months. After notching a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson at UFC 117 in August, Dos Santos became the top contender to reigning heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. When Velasquez opted to surgery on a torn rotator cuff, however, the deck was reshuffled. Lesnar and Dos Santos were announced as coaches for “TUF 13,” with the winner to be named the new No. 1 contender.
The upside: Dos Santos’ fight with Carwin will carry the same prize and the winner will get to welcome Velasquez back to the Octagon. The downside: taking a fight on one month’s notice against a dangerous, once-beaten foe.
“His boxing skills are great,” said Dos Santos of Carwin, who has secured all four of his UFC wins by first-round stoppage. “It’s gonna be a great fight with tough blows from both sides. I would say that it will end by knockout.”
With the stakes just as high and his new opponent just as dangerous, “Cigano” explained that there is little time for a change in strategy. But, for a young fighter in his prime who has already been on the shelf nine months, backing out of the fight simply is not an option.“I want to fight,” Dos Santos said. “I’m in the best moment of my career and I want to make my dream of being a UFC champion come true.”