UFC Rochester: After 18 Months, Rafael dos Anjos Relieved to Get Back in Win Column

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Rafael dos Anjos discusses getting back in the win column at UFC Rochester, hopes to fight in Abu Dhabi later this year.

Rocehster, NY — The face-off was intense. The opening a fast exchange of body kicks. You had a feeling the main event of UFC Rochester might not last long on Saturday. Kevin Lee, making his welterweight debut, came out of the gates a little quicker. Got the takedown early, but couldn’t keep the fight on the ground. But that feeling of a quick finish quickly faded. Instead, there were four hard-fought rounds between Lee and former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. In the end, dos Anjos pulled off a submission, an arm-triangle choke. Lee, exhausted, had to be helped up to his stool afterward.

It was a key win for RDA. Regardless of who they come against, losses are losses. Sure, Kamaru Usman went on to win the welterweight championship. And yes, Colby Covington defeated dos Anjos for the interim belt. Five years from now, people peeking at the record books are likely to forget that, as wins and losses become a numbers game.

Dos Anjos did not got 0-3 Saturday night. That matters. And as dos Anjos told media members including Cageside Press back stage following the fight, it was hard not to feel the pressure.

“You know, my last win in the UFC was 18 months ago, against Robbie Lawler,” RDA pointed out. “It’s going to feel great, walking home tomorrow, kiss my boys, kiss my wife, it’s going to be great. I can’t wait for it.”

“I was trying not to put to much pressure [on myself], but it’s hard,” he admitted. The former lightweight champ considers himself “a competitive guy, and I want to get good results.” Most fighters, of course, are ultra-competitive. dos Anjos was hoping to relax more leading into the fight, but ultimately, he’s just glad to have got the right result. The key, as it so often is, was sticking to his game plan. “I knew he would come strong in the first two rounds, that’s what happened. I’m glad I was able to use my strategy and my experience, and get it done.”

His main strategy was to drag Lee into the later rounds, “making him work. Taking him down as well, not worrying about defending his takedown but attacking him.” In the fourth round, his coach advised him to start firing off his jab, which opened things up for the finish.

Much was made leading into UFC Rochester of Lee moving up to welterweight, a move many had called for over the past year. Despite defeating the ‘Motown Phenom,’ RDA believes Lee belongs at 170. “He’s tough, I think he can beat a lot of guys in there,” he told Cageside Press.

Simply put, “it takes a little time to make those little adjustments [to the new weight class].” Most importantly, dos Anjos called Lee a tough guy, strong, and noted that “he’s got a welterweight’s strength. I’ve been in there with Robbie Lawler, Usman, Colby, the best guys in the world, and he’s strong too.”

Post-fight, Rafael dos Anjos spoke of titles and opportunities. Asked whether he was perhaps hoping for a short notice shot at the belt (likely on the line between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington next), dos Anjos explained that “it’s a matter for the opportunity. If the opportunity presents, I will be ready. I’m always ready. I always keep the water warm. When it’s time to boil, it’s easy. I never let my body get cold, totally, off-season.” He stays busy, even if it’s as simple as running.

The Abu Dhabi card interests dos Anjos moving forward. He’s fought there before, back when Renzo Gracie fought Matt Hughes, at UFC 112 in 2010. “That would be a good card, I would love to fight overseas too. We’ll see, a lot of shows coming up. But definitely, I want to fight one or two more times this year.”

Finally, dos Anjos commented on being an inspiration to a younger generation of fighters. Grant Dawson, earlier in the night, had pointed to RDA as a fighter he looked at coming up. Dawson was thrilled to have met the former champ, calling it a “fangirl” moment. “I met him in the hallway. It was good. It’s good for me to see how I’m inspiring people,” dos Anjos said of their encounter. “That was good, good for him that he won, that’s very nice. I like to hear those stories.”

Watch the full UFC Rochester post-fight press scrum with Rafael dos Anjos above!

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