Former Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos Released by UFC After 12 Years

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2021

Junior Dos Santos poses for photographers during a weigh-in before UFC 211 on Friday, May 12, 2017, in Dallas before UFC 211. ( AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

UFC has released former heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos after 12 years with the promotion. 

"I fought through MMA's Murderer's Row to get my shot at the belt," dos Santos wrote in an Instagram post. "Holding and defending it was one of the great honors of my life. Thanks to every opponent, thanks to every fan and every critic. I'm going to spend some time back at the drawing board, but I'm excited to move on."

UFC officials confirmed the release to ESPN's Brett Okamoto (h/t ESPN's Ariel Helwani).

Dos Santos last fought at UFC 256, losing to Ciryl Gane via a second-round TKO. It was his fourth straight defeat, bringing him to 21-9 for his career.  

UFC president Dana White told reporters he felt dos Santos should consider leaving the sport after the pay-per-view.

At age 37, dos Santos is still young enough to compete but is clearly well past his prime. The Brazilian burst onto the scene in 2008, winning his first nine UFC fights and capturing the heavyweight championship with a knockout of Cain Velasquez in 2011. He defended the championship once before dropping the title back to Velasquez at UFC 155. 

Velasquez won the third fight of their trilogy at UFC 166.

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Stipe Miocic knocked out dos Santos at UFC 211 in his final attempt to regain his heavyweight title. He had mostly been relegated to appearances at UFC Fight Night events since his loss to Miocic; his loss to Jairzinho Rozenstruik at UFC 252 was the first time he'd been part of a pay-per-view card since 2017.