Last week, American Airlines Center announced a big Ultimate Fighting Championship match coming to the arena this spring. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (16-2) will fight for his second consecutive title defense against Junior Dos Santos (18-4) at UFC 211 on May 13.
Miocic notably suffered his second and most recent loss to Dos Santos in December 2014 after a controversial judges’ vote in favor of his opponent. Nevertheless, he’s the favorite to win the rematch since he followed up the loss to Dos Santos with five victories by KO against titans such as Fabricio Werdum and Alistair Overeem.
“You always want to avenge your loss,” Miocic says. “I’m just excited. You’ve got two great strikers in the heavyweight division that’ll throw down and not pitter-patter. Moment of truth; it’s what we’re here for.”
Miocic says his loss against Dos Santos was a valuable learning experience. “It was my coming out party, and I definitely showed people that I belong to the division,” he says. The Ohio native considers his opponent “an amazing fighter” who influenced his current success.
In conversation, the fighters enjoy a lighthearted relationship surprisingly removed from the “Fight of the Night” intensity of their last match, readily praising each other’s boxing and work ethic. Former champion Dos Santos cites his opponent’s recent wining streak as motivation to train harder, and he’s encouraged by his recent win against Ben Rothwell.
“I see it as a very important fight for my career,” Dos Santos says. “The UFC did the right thing putting the two best strikers to face each other again. This is the fight the fans want to see. In the heavyweight division, I don’t see a better match than this for a striking match, so it’s going to be great.”
Both fighters are eager to surpass the showmanship that earned them “Fight of the Night" in 2014. “I think we’re always looking for a knockout, but if it goes five rounds, it goes five rounds,” Miocic says. “I’m coming out swinging; I know he is.”
The attendance for UFC 211 is expected to exceed the 17,160 attendees of UFC 185 in March 2014, in part because of the second title match of the night, Jessica Andrade (16-5) versus straw-weight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (13-0), who won her belt in Dallas in March 2015 against Carla Esparza.
“It’s a huge card,” Dos Santos says. “UFC’s giving a gift to Dallas: two belts in the lineup, big names, big fights. People cannot miss it. I’m looking forward to showing everybody what I’m capable of doing inside the octagon.”
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Dos Santos does his best to keep his focus trained solely on his next fight, but the potential match between firebrand Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, who has promised to come out of retirement for the opportunity, has also captured his interest.
“Everybody’s talking about it,” Dos Santos says. “One thing that’s right is McGregor has knockout power, so maybe he can beat Mayweather for the first time.”
Micocic thinks the fight could have implications for him and Dos Santos. “More importantly, if he wins, it could open up avenues for us,” he says. “Those guys make crap loads of money.”
UFC 211: Miocic vs. Dos Santos, 5:15 p.m. Saturday, May 13, American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. Tickets start at $50 at ticketmaster.com.