Junior dos Santos is no longer on the UFC roster and now he is challenging the loss that ultimately led to his release.
The former UFC heavyweight champion's team filed an appeal with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) on Wednesday over his second-round TKO loss to Cyril Gane at UFC 256 on Dec. 12, per dos Santos' agent Ana Guedes. Dos Santos' team says Gane's finishing blow landed to the back of dos Santos' head, a place that is illegal to target with strikes. The appeal is asking for the bout result to be overturned to a no-contest or disqualification with a request for a hearing in front of the commission.
Guedes originally appealed the result Jan. 15, but re-filed after the commission stated the first appeal did not sufficiently describe what dos Santos' team is calling a referee's misinterpretation of the rules.
"It is our position that Mr. Gane acted without malice but, like many fighters, without a clear understanding of what the rule prohibits," Guedes wrote in the appeal document obtained by ESPN. "We believe the illegal blow landed exactly where it was intended by Mr. Gane, and should have disqualified him immediately."
In the finishing sequence, dos Santos moved backward against the cage and Gane closed in for a clinch. Dos Santos moved away and angled off to his right. On the separation, Gane fired off a right elbow strike that dropped dos Santos and Gane finished with more strikes from there.
Dos Santos' team says that the elbow that led to the finish was to the back of dos Santos' head and neck, a prohibited zone under the Unified Rules of MMA. The document provides screen shots from the fight and photos of bruising on the back of dos Santos' head and neck taken after the bout.
Guedes writes in the appeal that referee Jerin Valel told dos Santos in the Octagon and again in the locker room "that because Gane's forearm touched Junior's ear, the elbow aimed directly at Junior's brain stem area was somehow rendered legal." Guedes claims that Valel's statements mean he misinterpreted the written rule, which does not lay out those exceptions when it comes to blows to the back of the head.
Dos Santos (21-9) was released by the UFC earlier this month. The Brazilian slugger still owns the longest winning streak in UFC heavyweight history (9) between 2008 and 2012. He held the UFC heavyweight title in 2011 and 2012. Dos Santos has dropped four straight.
"We acknowledge, wistfully, that Junior is closer to the twilight of his fight career than the dawn. Indeed, since this appeal was originally filed, we have learned that we will not see Junior in the UFC octagon again," Guedes wrote to the NSAC. "That makes this appeal far less about the consequence to Junior's own record, and far more about his personal commitment to the legacy of mixed martial arts - a sport he has worked to positively promote for over a decade, a sport he credits with changing his life.
"Changing the decision of Junior dos Santos x Cyril Gane to a 'no contest' or 'no decision' is the right result. It is not only the fair result for Junior, who does not deserve to end his brilliant career on a missed foul, but it is the right result for every fighter who will come long after Junior sets his own gloves down."