After contemplating Alistair Overeem and beating Frank Mir, UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos sees a rematch with Cain Velasquez as a chance to face off with a fighter he respects.
"Cain Velasquez is a guy I really like," Dos Santos said through an interpreter. "I like his style. He's a focused fighter, he's respectful and he's a professional. I feel like's he's similar to me in that way.
"Neither of us is a big talker. What we do really well is we go in there and fight. Cain's focus and his professionalism is why he's had such excellent results as a fighter and I really admire and respect that."
Dos Santos, who won the title from Velasquez (10-1) in November 2011, is slated to meet the former champion at UFC 155 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
It will be the Brazilian's second title defence. Dos Santos was supposed to make the first against Overeem in May but the Dutch giant was replaced by Mir after failing a pre-fight drug test.
Dos Santos (15-1) went on to knock out Mir at UFC 146 for his ninth straight UFC win — and 10th in a row in all organizations.
While Velasquez moves to the front of the challengers' line, Overeem has to wait until Dec. 27 to re-apply for his license to fight.
Overeem's March drug test showed a 14-1 testosterone-epitestosterone ratio, according to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Most people are at a ratio of 1-1 although the commission allows for a ratio of 6-1. The World Anti-Doping Agency allows a 4-1 ratio.
WADA says an elevated T/E "may be an indicator of the use of a prohibited substance."
Overeem subsequently apologized, blaming the failed test on a prescribed anti-inflammatory medication.
Time has not softened the champion's feelings about Overeem, however.
"It's an embarrassment to a professional athlete to be using performance-enhancing drugs and it was proven that he was using something," said Dos Santos. "I think it's an embarrassment to any professional athlete, it casts a poor light on the sport as a whole. So I just don't think he's a guy that deserves that shot.
"And he was pretty disrespectful to me but, all of that said, I don't really have anything personal against him. He's just not somebody who, in my opinion, deserves to be fighting for the title."
Added Dos Santos: "I don't take performance-enhancing drugs. I'm the real champion. ... I don't think anybody's interested in finding out who's the fake champion or who's the champion with the aid of performance-enhancing substances."
As for the talkative Mir — who beat Dos Santos' mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira twice, breaking his arm in their most recent meeting — the champion says he holds no grudges.
"As far as Frank Mir he's not a guy who really gets to me too much," Dos Santos said. "I don't agree with some of the stuff that he says but he's not a guy who bothers me or anything like that."
Dos Santos, 28, spent the first month of his training camp in Sao Paolo at the Corinthians Sports Club, a new sponsor. The next two months were spent preparing in his home town of Salvador, Bahia.
The hard-punching champion has trained in the past in San Diego with Team Nogueira and plans to continue using U.S. resources.
"Whether it's to stay there for a lengthy of time or to bring people in from there, I think it's something very important for my development as an athlete," he said. "And after this fight, I hope next year to be able to spend some time focused on working on my wrestling."
The first fight with Velasquez lasted just 64 seconds as a clubbing Dos Santos punch to the head put him down.
"I did learn from it, so I will use the experience I gained in that fight, although obviously the fight happened very fast so I didn't take away too much or as much as I would have taken away had the fight gone longer," Dos Santos said.
"That said, I prepared a lot for my last fight against Cain. And I prepared even more for this fight against Cain. I'll bring with me everything that I know but I just think each fight is different and you have to prepare for each one individually."
As for life as champion in Brazil, Dos Santos laughed.
"Yeah, it's way better than before," he said in English.
"I'm truly living my dream down here," he added through the interpreter. "There's a lot of things happening. there's a lot of new opportunities that have come my way.
"Here in Brazil I'm pretty famous and the really cool part of me is I'm very well liked by my fans and that's something that's very gratifying to me, especially to kids. Kids who come up to me and they want to meet me, it makes me feel very special, it's makes me feel very grateful and very honoured — to know that they want to emulate me. And at the end of the day, I've created a better life for myself and it makes me very proud to know that I'm giving a better life to my family."
Dos Santos is true to his words.
He brought nine-year-old Breno Luis Ferreira de Carvalho, plus the youngster's mother and brother, from Brazil as his guests to the Mir fight. He had met the young boy during his training camp.
Inside the cage, Dos Santos wants to break records. Outside, the six-foot-four Brazilian with a ready smile hopes his personality and work out will stand out.
"I think I want to be remembered as a normal easy-going guy who did his best and achieved his dreams," he said. "My dream was to become the champion and I worked really hard to get there and I got there. Now my dream is to break records, to retain the belt for as long as I can.
"Regardless of my opponent is, I'm going to give my all to go in there and beat him and be a great fighter, and that's how I want to be remembered."