Junior dos Santos is not the first former UFC heavyweight champion to cross over into the world of pro-wrestling. Other former champs have made the same jump before, with mixed results.
Whether ‘Cigano’ will succeed in his new career is still very much up for question. However, it will definitely be interesting to see the Brazilian star give it a go.
With that considered, here are five former UFC heavyweight champions who made the move into pro-wrestling.
#5. Junior dos Santos – Won the UFC heavyweight title in 2011
It doesn’t seem all that long ago since Junior dos Santos knocked out Cain Velasquez to claim the UFC heavyweight title on the UFC’s first ever show on Fox. Incredibly, though, that fight took place a decade ago next month.
The Brazilian dropped the title back to Velasquez a year later, but remained one of the UFC’s top heavyweights for years. He defeated opponents such as Mark Hunt, Derrick Lewis and Ben Rothwell. He ven made an unsuccessful attempt at regaining the UFC heavyweight title from Stipe Miocic in 2017.
However, following his knockout loss to Francis Ngannou in 2019, ‘Cigano’ hit a major slide and lost his next three bouts, all by knockout. He was released by the UFC in early 2021. While many fans expected him to emerge in Bellator MMA, he’s instead gone down a different route.
This weekend will see dos Santos, under the charge of American Top Team owner Dan Lambert, make his pro-wrestling debut in the AEW promotion. ‘Cigano’ is set to team with Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky in a six-man tag team match against Chris Jericho, Sammy Guevara and Jake Hager.
Whether JDS can have the same level of success in AEW that he did in UFC is up for debate. His work in the wrestling ring has already been criticized by legendary former commentator Jim Cornette. However, if nothing else, it’ll be nice to see him competing in a sport where he can avoid more brain trauma.