Antonio Carlos Junior is ready for a fresh start to his MMA career.

“The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3” winner is gearing up to fight outside the UFC banner for the first time in almost seven years. Carlos Junior (10-5) debuts with PFL on April 29, taking on fellow PFL newcomer Tom Lawlor at PFL 2021, Week 2. The bout is part of the organization’s light heavyweight season.

Back in February, Carlos Junior was released from the UFC, which served as a home for his fighting career from 2014 to 2021. Although the release forced the Brazilian to find a new promotion, Carlos Junior already had PFL in mind.

“I actually thought about that even when I was in the UFC,” Carlos Junior told MMA Junkie. “I was good in UFC for some time, and they were good for me, too, but I wasn’t happy anymore, and they weren’t happy with me. It was a good moment for this to happen.

“For sure, I didn’t want it to be this way. I wanted to achieve my goals in the organization and wanted to become UFC champion, but it didn’t happen. Now all my focus is on getting the belt and the million dollars.”

Carlos Junior had good moments in the UFC. He won a “TUF,”  established himself as a known figure, and entered the UFC middleweight rankings. But the good also came with some bad, especially after the company underwent some changes with the $4 billion sale to Endeavor in 2016.

“Especially after Reebok stuff, after the UFC sold, I think a lot of things changed,” Carlos Junior said. “For sure, the entertainment part is always there in every sport, but I think the UFC became a lot of entertainment and a lot of politics – not really a sport. If you see the PFL’s season, if you win, you go to the belt. That’s how it is. There is no easy way to go to the belt, you know what I mean? You get what you deserve.

“Sometimes the rankings in the UFC don’t really make sense. You see a lot of guys on seven, eight-(fight) wining streaks and they’re not even in the rankings, so it’s so weird. I don’t judge. It just wasn’t working for me. I know this is a business, and they’re doing that for the money. I completely understand, but I’m not the trash talking kind of guy. I don’t hate people. I don’t hate my opponents. I understand what they think and that they’re trying to reach their goals just like me.”

Carlos Junior feels just winning isn’t enough to get ahead in the UFC, and trash talking became a big part in getting opportunities. The 31-year-old just feels his personality and even his fighting style is better suited for PFL. The multiple time jiu-jitsu champion doesn’t rule out a return to the UFC, but he doesn’t feel the need to go back unless he thinks he’ll enjoy his time there.

“Fighting in the UFC was great, but lately I just wasn’t happy,” Carlos Junior explained. “If I can fight for them again, maybe, I don’t know. A lot of things can change. You never know. We never knew that we’re going to be in the middle of a pandemic and all this stuff, so you never know about tomorrow. If I return, I want to be happy fighting for them. I don’t want to be there and not be happy.”