Catching up with UFC on ESPN+ 10's Antonio Carlos Junior

Is it possible for a fighter to win five UFC bouts in a row, and yet still be under the radar? That just might be the case for Antonio Carlos Junior, who’s done exactly that, while submitting four of his foes along the way. Carlos Junior returns to action Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 10, when he faces Ian Heinisch, looking to make it six straight, but first, he sat down to talk to MMA Junkie.

Can you recap your career up to now?

Everything happened pretty quickly. I only had three MMA fights, in less than six months. About six months about my first fight, I went into the ‘The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3’ house. Thankfully, I managed to become the champion of that season. Once I was in the UFC, I had to learn everything in a hurry, in the world’s biggest organization. It was difficult. My two losses, plus the accidental eye poke against Kevin Casey, they were all lessons. I learned and evolved from my losses. That’s why I’m on a winning streak. I learned how to train, how to fight, and how to manage my weight. Doing all that in the UFC was an additional challenge, as I was among the best. In the end, it made me much tougher. Today, I consider myself a mature fighter. I’m ready for any new challenges. I’ve won five in a row, and I hope to continue winning. I look forward to beating my next opponent, and fighting for a belt in the near future.

You had three fight cancellations in 2018. What happened?

I was scheduled to face Derek Brunson, but he ended up getting hurt. We tried to reschedule it for a Brazil card, but the doctor said he wouldn’t be ready in time. Then, I was supposed to face Elias Theodorou but I got hurt. I required surgery to rebuild my left pectoral muscle, which I tore. Now I’m 100 percent. Now I’m hoping no one gets hurt before my next fight, so I can get another win. 

What can you say about your next opponent, Ian Heinisch?

He’s very tough, with very heavy hands. I would have very much liked to face someone who is ranked, like Paulo ‘Borrachinha’ Costa, but something came up with USADA. I wanted to fight him either in Rio, or in Fort Lauderdale, which is next to where I live. That’s when I told (UFC matchmaker) Mick Maynard to get me any opponent. I was very eager, since my last fight was in April of 2018, against Tim Boetsch. They matched me up against Ian Heinisch, who is actually somewhat similar to Tim Boetsch.

He has a recent win over Cezar ‘Mutante’ Ferreira, who’s a fellow ‘TUF Brazil’ champion. I’m getting ready in regards to strategy and techniques, so I can be victorious again. Like always, I’ll probably look for a takedown, so I can work my jiu-jitsu. It’s where I feel most comfortable. On the mat, I feel at home. I feel superior to any opponent. That’s where I want to impose my game. I want to get a submission, and hopefully a bonus. I’ve been waiting for my first bonus for some time now. 

How’s your preparation going?

I’m been at American Top Team since 2015. My head coach is Din Thomas. I also work with Conan Silveira, and Mike Brown. I also trained my boxing with coach Luiz Dorea, my old teacher, who was visiting us. He’s going to train Junior Dos Santos for his July bout. Besides boxing with Junior, who’s my brother, I’ve also been working Anderson Franca, Edson Barboza’s coach. He’s been sharpening my kicking skills. I’m feeling much more comfortable. Each day, I feel more mature and complete. I’ve been working with ‘King Mo’ and Steve Mocco on my wrestling. There’s a lot of great talent here. I feel very well supported. I know I’ll be able to give my best.

Thoughts about climbing up the rankings?

The UFC wanted me face someone in the rankings, but everyone was either booked or hurt. We have to let some of those fights play out so we’ll know what’s next. Without a doubt, I want to face someone in the top-5, but my total focus is on Ian Heinisch. Your most important fight is always the one in front of you. As soon as I’m done fighting, I want to plan the next one. I want to fight as often as possible this year. 

UFC on ESPN+ 10 takes place Saturday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. The card streams on ESPN+.

For more on UFC on ESPN+ 10, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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