Rafael dos Anjos didn’t want to be a healthy fighter sitting on the couch, so he’s welcoming Kevin Lee to the welterweight division. However, prior to that, RDA was linked to fights with Darren Till, Nick Diaz and others.
Rochester, NY — Former UFC lightweight champ turned welterweight Rafael dos Anjos returns this weekend to headline UFC Rochester. Taking on a fellow lightweight moving up in Kevin Lee, it’s a key fight for both men moving forward. For Lee, it’s something of a litmus test as to his future at 170lbs. Always a big lightweight, he’s one of those fighters that might have benefited from a weight class between lightweight and welterweight.
RDA, meanwhile, enters UFC Fight Night 152 off a pair of losses to the man who became champ, Kamaru Usman, and Colby Covington. The Covington fight was for interim gold, and while the American was later stripped of the title, he’s the likely next contender for ‘The Nigerian Nightmare.’
So where does that leave dos Anjos? His plan at least for now is to stick around welterweight, unless the right fight with the right lead time arises.
“At least three months notice, [so] that I could do the right transition,” he told members of the media including Cageside Press on Thursday in Rochester. “And I’ve gotta change my whole schedule, my whole diet. It’s going to be hard. It’s gotta be the fight that’s worth it for the sacrifice. But as of now, I’m just thinking of [staying] at welterweight.”
As to what might be worth it, “me and Conor [McGregor], we’ve been scheduled to fight a couple of times, I think twice.”
However, dos Anjos broke his foot prior to one meeting, which led to the infamous Diaz fights for McGregor. The pair were also supposed to fight for the interim belt at 170lbs, or so RDA heard — he actually wasn’t aware at the time.
“We were about to fight in Brazil too, for the interim welterweight title. That’s what I heard. I think that fight, if I get several weeks notice, like three, four months notice, I think I could make that sacrifice.”
In any case, 170lbs is an easier experience for the former lightweight champ. Especially given he has a family. “When you have kids at home, you’ve got to have food in the fridge, you know, and all of that. If you’re single, you just don’t buy food, you just buy what you have to eat. But when you have kids, you have to buy everything.”
“It’s more enjoyable for me,” he said of his current weight class.
Kevin Lee is moving up to welterweight for UFC Rochester, and RDA has been there before himself. That, he agreed, gives him an edge this weekend. “Yeah, I think definitely. I remember when I had my first welterweight fight with Tarec Saffiedine in Singapore. That was a three round fight, and I got really tired,” dos Anjos admitted. “I was in good shape, but it took me a while to make the adjustments I needed. Now I’m feeling fully adjusted in this division. I think for him to come into a fight with me, in a five round fight, will be— I feel that I have an advantage on this one.”
Lee has predicted a bloody fight coming in. RDA doesn’t expect to be the one bleeding. “I expect, if it goes distance, if it [is a] bloody fight, I have no problem with that. But I don’t see my face bleeding on that one. I want to be selfish, I want to punch and don’t get punched, and I want to finish as soon as possible.”
Should he come out victorious, dos Anjos will be watching a title fight at welterweight, likely between champ Kamaru Usman and old foe Colby Covington. His prediction is the champ. “I think I go with Kamaru. He’s a better stand-up fighter, and is a better, well-rounded fighter, and I think Kamaru takes that one.”
What he’s not worrying about, however, is rankings. “You just saw Stephen Thompson, took [on] Anthony Petttis, and he was the number three [ranked fighter] too, and he lost,” dos Anjos pointed out. “I’m not too attached to the rankings, we tried different options before Lee came up to the table, and none of them worked out.”
Instead, he just wants to keep busy. “I’m in shape, no injuries, nothing bad. I can’t sit at home and be inactive for a while,” he explained. “I know Masvidal is scheduled with Askren, Usman-Cobly, Woodley-Lawler. I can’t just sit at home and wait for those guys. I just got to be active.” The UFC offered Lee, so he took Lee. It’s all about getting back on the winning track.
Lee wasn’t the first fight offered, mind you. “I got an offer to fight Darren Till in March in London. I took the fight, I just told the UFC that the only thing I’d like to ask is that he’s got to weight weight,” dos Anjos revealed. “If he doesn’t make weight, the fight’s not going to happen, and they need to have a replacement. That was what I said. Then Sean [Shelby] told me he’ll get back to me; a couple days later he said ‘I put Masvidal [in the fight] instead.'”
After Masvidal won, “we worked with Masvidal after that fight, and it didn’t work out, they put Masvidal with Askren. I asked for [Santiago] Ponzinibbio, but Ponzinibbio didn’t take the fight with Till, and I think in retaliation or something, [the UFC’s] not going to give him any ranked fighter.”
Then came an even more surprising call. “Sean called us one day, and said ‘Nick Diaz might be interested in a fight with you.'” After a couple of weeks of negotiations, that fight ended up falling through as well. “Then Lee’s name came to the table, I said okay, let’s fight.”
Which brings us to UFC Rochester. Kevin Lee will face Rafael dos Anjos in the main event at the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday night. It’s a fight that might have happened, once upon a time, at 155lbs. Both men, however, seem more upbeat at welterweight.