During an interview with ESPN MMA earlier this week, MMA star and current AEW guest Junior Dos Santos opened up about what led him to All Elite Wrestling. Dos Santos admittedly wasn’t a fan of pro wrestling growing up, however, that opinion changed when he visited AEW with Dan Lambert.
“I didn’t know too much about pro wrestling. I like it, the shows I’ve had an opportunity to watch,” Dos Santos explained. “Some of the guys I’ve met, like King Mo in our gym, he’s a pro wrestler and he knows a lot about it. He has been giving me some good advice as well, so I wasn’t really a big fan of it. But that changed a lot when Dan Lambert invited me to go [to AEW] and see how hard it is.
“It’s not a joke, man. Those guys go hard and they have to be very well prepared for that. So then when I saw all of that, all of it, I got interested in it and I said, ‘Man, I want to do it’ to Dan Lambert.”
More specifically, Dos Santos was impressed with the emotional response the wrestlers would have towards their performances. He also was impressed with how people were legitimately getting hurt from their in-ring work.
“There’s many moments – when I was watching the show, the guys were going very hard. Some of them were coming back and they were sad because, you know, they didn’t perform as good as they wanted to do it. And some of them were hurt, and I said, ‘Wow man, this is real. It’s very exciting.’ So, I became interested in that.”
For someone who isn’t accustom to the world of professional wrestling, attending a live show could be jarring when the crowd is screaming and chanting. But this detail only increased Dos Santos’ desire to try it out himself, and it even felt rejuvenating in a sense.
“One of the most amazing things in pro wrestling is, at least for me and what I could see, is the crowd. Man, those guys, they love this thing! They really want to participate in it, and they yell at us and say a lot of stupid things. I can bet many of them would be willing to go in there in the ring and beat us up,” he said with a laugh. “That type of energy was amazing to feel, and for a long time, I didn’t feel this way. In a long time, I haven’t felt this excited to get in the ring and perform and give the best of me in my performance. So, man, I’m looking forward to [tonight].
“That’s what I mean, for a long time I haven’t felt this way because back in the day in the UFC and the MMA itself, I was feeling kind of pressure a lot of the time and I wasn’t being appreciated to be there,” Dos Santos stated. “Now, it’s different. People love me to be there even if they don’t like me.”
The former UFC Heavyweight Champion says his in-ring style will definitely be centered around brawling and striking, similar to his approach in the octagon.
“Well, I’m a combat sports man, you know? I’ve been training my whole life, so no doubt I know how to fight. I’m going to go there to fight, you know? I’m going to go there to finish those guys. I don’t know, it’s not a joke like Dan [Lambert] said, it’s not a joke. You’ve got to go in there, put on a good show, and give your best, and I’m ready for that. I’ve been training some good skills with King Mo, all the guys from the gym, everybody – like Dan said – everybody is willing to go there in the ring and represent the gym, to defend our name. I’m privileged to be in this position and I’m going to do my best.”
In the grand scheme of things, Dos Santos says a long-term future with professional wrestling is something he is certainly interested in. As tonight’s AEW Rampage gets closer and closer, he looks forward to getting in the ring and succeeding, or, as he admits, possibly not doing so well.
“Of course, of course. I’ve been enjoying a lot, everything I’ve been doing and to be back in the ring, to be fighting again, to be performing again and putting on the best performance for everybody to watch. It just feels amazing. And like Dan just told you, I’m very excited about this. I’m happy again, I’m feeling that good energy to go in there and put in a good performance, and make everybody happy or not about it.”
If you use any quotes from this article, please credit ESPN MMA with a h/t to Wrestling Inc.