For as wild as the top of the UFC heavyweight division has been over the last two years, there's been few constants. Stipe Miocic defended his belt three times but remains inactive since losing to Daniel Cormier last July. Cormier, who has been out of action since stopping Derrick Lewis last November, plans on taking one more fight before retiring himself. Yet, a few veteran names remain atop the divisional rankings.
Enter Junior dos Santos, who has quietly returned to the spotlight with a pair of decisive victories over newcomers in Blagoy Ivanov and Tai Tuivasa. Now, dos Santos sits at No. 8 in the division with a bout against Lewis set to headline Saturday's event in Wichita, Kansas. While it's not guaranteed that he would shoot up the rankings with a violent stoppage of Lewis, dos Santos thinks his resume speaks for itself.
"Actually, I don't think I have to do much more than winning fights to get to the title fight because I'm already qualified to be fighting for the title. You know, I already fought for the title before and people know me and they know what I'm capable of," dos Santos told CBS Sports. "I'm keeping [it] very positive, everything is happening in a good way for me. I want to translate these things out in good results and become champion. Derrick is going to be one more step for this."
For dos Santos (20-5, 14 KOs) to make the kind of leap in the history books, he needs to get some more top quality wins, the likes of which Cormier could provide if the reigning champion were to delay his planned retirement.
"I actually would love to fight him. I hope he considers doing one more fight or something to defend his title. What I know is after his next fight, he wants to retire. But for me, I really wanted to fight DC one day. I never fought him. I think he's a great fighter, great champion, but it's the type of fight I need to put myself where I want to be on the top of the world."
There is one person in front of him in the rankings he has his eyes on should the Cormier bout not come to be: Alistair Overeem. Dos Santos called out Overeem after stopping Tuivasa in December but was offered the opportunity to face Lewis instead. He doesn't think that rematch will ever come to be.
"That would be good because that loss stays here. I know he did well, congratulations to him, but I don't accept that, you know. I thought it was an early stoppage. I thought the referee was wrong in his decision," dos Santos said. "I don't know, I cannot absorb that, you know? This one in particular is a bad one. I know he's never going to accept that again. Everyone knows how scared he is and he only wants to fight you when it's on his terms. I don't think it's gonna happen, but it would be good to fight him again."
While he knows the kind of challenge ahead of him in facing a tough brawler like Lewis (21-6, 1 NC), dos Santos maintains he has no concerns over his power or style heading into the bout.
"No way, I don't really care about these kind of things. He's a different guy, he's huge with a lot of power, but I don't really care. During a fight, it's all about me. Of course, we have to plan our strategy. But it's all about me. If I'm able to impose my game in the fight, I will win the fight, I know that. I am truth. I was made of truth. Few people can say that in this sport. Nobody's more truth than I am in this sport. They can be equal, but no more than me."