Dos Santos set for pro wrestling debut in AEW

MMA news

Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos will be back in action soon. But not in the Octagon.

Dos Santos, who was released by the UFC in March, will make his professional wrestling debut next weekend with All Elite Wrestling (AEW), it was announced Wednesday on the AEW Dynamite program. The bout will take place on either Oct. 15 or Oct. 16, part of AEW’s back-to-back television cards in Miami.

Dos Santos will perform in a six-man tag match, partnering with AEW wrestlers Ethan Page and Scorpio Sky against pro wrestling legend Chris Jericho, Jake Hager and Sammy Guevara. UFC star Jorge Masvidal, who was dos Santos’ teammate in MMA, will be in his team’s corner.

“I love it,” dos Santos told ESPN on Wednesday night. “It’s very different than MMA, but just as exciting. The reactions from the fans are amazing. I’m having a lot of fun and look forward to kicking Jericho and Hager’s asses next week.”

Dos Santos, 37, will become the 11th former UFC heavyweight champion to perform in a pro wrestling match. There have been only 17 UFC heavyweight champions in history.

His release from the UFC came after four straight losses, though all came against top contenders. The Brazil native, nicknamed “Cigano,” held the UFC heavyweight title in 2011 and 2012 and owns UFC wins over former champs Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez and Frank Mir.

Dos Santos’ six-man tag match is part of a storyline involving his MMA gym, American Top Team. Dan Lambert, the real-life American Top Team owner and lifelong pro wrestling enthusiast, is playing the role of an on-screen manager for Page and Sky, while bringing in his MMA fighters as muscle. Masvidal and another former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski, have both appeared several times on AEW programming over the past few months.

On Wednesday night in Philadelphia, Lambert and dos Santos were joined by former UFC veteran Paige VanZant and Bellator’s Austin Vanderford (VanZant’s husband) and Dalton Rosta. In storyline, the American Top Team group jumped Guevara after his match and Jericho and Hager, who also fights for Bellator, made the save with Jericho and dos Santos getting into it.

Masvidal got involved physically in a segment two weeks ago, hitting Jericho with the running knee he made famous in the UFC by knocking out Ben Askren in five seconds. VanZant, who competes for Bare Knuckle FC, also landed body shots on Jericho earlier in that sequence.

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