Antonio Carlos Junior felt “relieved” when, after seven years at the company, he parted ways with the UFC and it didn’t take long for him to find a new home. Luckily for Cara de Zapato, he signed with exactly the promotion he dreamed of.
Junior will make his PFL debut Thursday night in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in a light heavyweight bout against UFC veteran Tom Lawlor. Junior was last seen in the octagon middleweight title and felt like fate had signed a promotion contract that didn’t have the 185 lb class available.
“[I returned to light heavyweight because] I was starving, ”said Junior with a laugh during an MMA Fighting interview. “It sucks. I usually cut around 33 pounds, which is too much. I trained well with my normal weight, but then I started to lower it and felt that my results would decrease. I had to worry about my diet, so I wouldn’t do the same. “
Junior joins UFC after winning Top Fighter: Brazil 3 heavyweight in 2014, then moved up to middleweight after losing to Patrick Cummins at his debut at 205 pounds. At some point in his UFC career, Cara de Zapato won six of eight, including a decision over future rival Marvin Vettori, but then lost three in a row against Ian Heinisch, Uriah Hall and Brad Tavares.
“I felt it [my weight cut] left me weak during the fight, I will not recover 100 percent, ”he said. “The weight gain was great for me, one less concern. I performed well on TUF because I fought in the heavyweight division and I have nothing to worry about. “
A lighter weight loss of around 11 pounds is perfect for a 31-year-old who is celebrating a “new moment in my career” after “changing home”.
“I already liked the PFL system and the way it worked when I was in the UFC,” he said. “I talked to my manager when I left the UFC and we had certain opportunities, other promotions were growing, but I told him that I really want to fight for the PFL.”
A multiple Jiu-Jitsu champion, Cara de Zapato felt that the UFC was looking for flamboyant fighters and talkers, which he would never be in MMA.
“The UFC makes you do it sometimes,” he said. “Look at Colby [Covington], for example, who was on my team and was not the person he is now. He always treated him with respect, but felt that he had to do it, otherwise he would be cut, even if he is a great fighter. The PFL looks at the sporting side of MMA, and that’s what I’m an athlete.
“The UFC is focused on entertainment, which is cool, I understand it,” he continued. “This is a company that wants to make money and sell pay-per-view movies, but that’s bad for an athlete. I cannot change my fighting style. I am a grappler – I will obviously have to stand and trade, but you will always see struggle in my fights. This'[Conor] McGregor Era: “Everyone loves to chat, but I’m not that guy. This is not the image I want to sell. “
Cara de Zapato has joined the 2021 PFL season, replacing Jordan Johnson, and welcomes the challenges Lawlor presents in the cage. Dirty has fought only once since leaving the UFC in 2016, losing by decision to Deron Wynn in November 2018. Lawlor has been active in the professional wrestling world for the past few years.
“He’s a tough, UFC veteran who has fought a lot of tough guys,” Junior said. “He has strong wrestling training and a versatile approach, but he hasn’t fought for a while. I hope it matters and in the end I will have the edge. “