May 25, 2012
UFC's big man helps out little dude
By JOSE RODRIGUEZ, QMI Agency
CALGARY - For UFC Heavyweight champ Junior ‘Cigano’ Dos Santos, it’s a matter of giving back.
Born into poverty and forced to flog ice cream and newspapers on the streets of Brazil at age 10, the power-puncher understands what it means to struggle.
So, for his first title defence, the 14-1 Dos Santos will have a boisterous version of his younger self sitting cageside.
Nine-year-old Breno Luis Ferreira has been stopping by Dos Santos’s gym in Salvador, Brazil every day for months.
He’s become friends with the trainers and the champ and one of the 27-year-old’s loudest boosters.
“As soon as school ends, Breno always appears,” said Dos Santos.
“After my last sparring session before flying to the US, he asked me why I had to fight in Vegas, and when I explained, he said he wanted to come to help me win.
“He didn’t have a passport. His mother didn’t have a passport. But I was a little guy once and people helped me.”
So the champ and his team got the ball rolling and frantic officials in both countries were able to secure passports for Breno, his mom and his older brother.
All three will enjoy VIP seats for Dos Santos main event fight at UFC 146 on May 26.
Dos Santos — arguably the best boxer in MMA — will take on Frank Mir for the sport’s elite title in a card highlighted by heavyweight tilts.
The fight is also a chance for Dos Santos to avenge his mentor Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira who had his arm broken by Mir at UFC 140.
Young Breno — who said sitting on an airplane was like a dream — says he has the fight all figured out.
“I'm here to help Cigano defend his title,” he said through an interpreter.
“He can defeat anybody even though he is nice. He will beat Frank Mir on Saturday. I’ve seen him in the gym and he will win with a left hook followed by a big right uppercut. This will be in the first round.”
First round knockouts aren’t foreign to Dos Santos, who’s already amassed five in his UFC career.
The jovial champ says his good fortunes obligate him to help others.
“At this point in my career, I can be a motivation and role model for these little guys from home,” he says.
“The kids see that all the fighters from the gym have good cars. They can see that hard work does lead to something good in life.”
UFC 146 also features former champ Cain Velasquez taking on Antonio Silva and Dave Herman facing Roy Nelson.
The event is available in Canada on pay-per-view.