Antonio Carlos Junior rallies from UFC release to $1 million PFL final

11 months ago 144

Antonio Carlos Junior’s twelvemonth started with losing. He mislaid his archetypal combat backmost aft a 16-month layoff — his 3rd successful a enactment — and past the erstwhile “The Ultimate Fighter” victor mislaid his spot connected the UFC roster.

But 2021 could extremity with a monumental triumph for Carlos Junior (12-5, 9 finishes), who is simply a triumph distant from the $1 cardinal prize for winning the airy heavyweight part title successful Professional Fighters League’s season-ending lawsuit connected Wednesday nighttime astatine Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino successful Hollywood, Fla.

Carlos Junior told The Post precocious via Zoom that coming into the twelvemonth healthier aft respective injuries and surgeries played a cardinal relation successful his surge of success. But moving up from middleweight for the archetypal clip since the extremity of 2014 played a pivotal relation arsenic well.

“I deliberation that affected my show arsenic good due to the fact that I utilized to chopped a batch of weight: 35 pounds,” Carlos Junior says, possibly with a hint of regret. “I don’t deliberation that was bully for me, and I consciousness mode amended present astatine 205, healthy, happier. The show is amended successful the fight, the training, everything.” 

Shortly aft his release, which came successful the weeks aft his January nonaccomplishment via determination to Brad Tavares, Carlos Junior expressed a tendency to stay astatine middleweight alternatively than vie arsenic an undersized airy heavyweight. But PFL’s connection to vie successful its 205-pound part this play — the lone 185-pound play was contested 3 years agone — was excessively bully to walk up. 

Carlos Junior won his play debut connected April 29, picking up the maximum six standings points with a first-round submission of chap UFC seasoned Tom Lawlor, earning his mode backmost into the triumph file for the archetypal clip successful conscionable implicit 3 years. His different regular-season bout connected June 17 ended successful a nary contention owed to an accidental groin onslaught from which hostile Vinny Magalhaes could not recover. In the semifinals connected Aug. 27, helium outpointed 2019 PFL play victor Emiliano Sordi to punch his finals ticket.

Antonio Carlos JuniorAntonio Carlos JuniorPFL

Ultimately, Carlos Junior sees his smaller size for the part — he’s inactive 6-foot-2 and walks astir astatine astir 220 pounds — arsenic an plus considering helium is making his 4th travel down to 205 pounds aft already having made the middleweight bounds to commencement 2021.

“Especially for this benignant of strategy — the tourney — you’ve gotta marque the value 4 times a year, it’s precise bully due to the fact that you don’t [have to] suffer a batch of weight,” Carlos Junior said. 

All who stands betwixt the 31-year-old and a seven-figure payday is Marthin Hamlet, an unheralded 205-pounder whose way to this constituent was, well, strange. After an awesome second-round submission triumph via arm-triangle choke successful his PFL debut, Norway’s Hamlet (8-2, six finishes) mislaid via third-round tapout but had earned capable points successful the standings to beforehand to the four-man playoffs. 

In the semifinals successful October, Hamlet picked up a triumph without doing overmuch of anything. Opponent Cezar Ferreira, a erstwhile “TUF” champ and seasoned UFC middleweight similar Carlos Junior, suffered an unusual, non-contact hamstring wounded 13 seconds into the bout, crumbling to the crushed earlier Hamlet rapidly finished him with a TKO.

While “disappointed” for Ferreira and the information that the accidental for the 2 Brazilians to quadrate disconnected with the large prize connected the line, Carlos Junior is focused solely connected Hamlet.

“I anticipation [Ferreira] is well, but present I conscionable deliberation astir the close mode to bushed Marthin Hamlet,” Carlos Junior said. “I cognize his mode to the last was a small weird, but helium was doing precise good [in] the combat helium lost. He was doing precise well, actually. I deliberation [in] the 3rd round, helium got tired.”

Carlos Junior is simply a sizable favourite to people what is by acold his biggest vocation payday — 1 that’s uncommon adjacent for the bulk of the UFC roster. He says helium made $43,000 to amusement for his last UFC bout against Tavares and could person doubled that with a victory. 

Coming into the season, Carlos Junior was viewed arsenic 1 of the strongest contenders to triumph the championship, adjacent returning to airy heavyweight for the archetypal clip successful much than six years. 

“I was confident, believing that I could get into the finals and get this belt,” Carlos Junior said. “I ever believed [in] me. In UFC, I believed successful me, and present is the same. Nothing changed.”