Watching Nate Diaz submit Conor McGregor was a bittersweet moment for Rafael dos Anjos. On the one hand, it was an outcome the Brazilian said he saw coming, but on the other, he would have been forgiven for thinking “it should have been me.”
Instead dos Anjos was forced to pull out of the biggest fight of his career with an injury, clearing the way for Diaz to hand McGregor his maiden UFC loss. It was particularly frustrating for the Brazilian, who does not have a track record of withdrawing from fights.
“I have 32 fights and had never before pulled out of any fight due to injury. It was really disappointing, as I went from a full fight camp training 100 miles an hour to sitting at home watching fights. That was really hard for me.”
The official UFC website would subsequently describe the injury as a “sore foot,” but according to dos Anjos, it was much more serious than that.
“I broke my fifth metatarsal 12 days before the fight, during my last sparring session. I kicked someone’s knee and broke it.”
Had McGregor beaten Diaz, a fight between him and dos Anjos would have probably materialized. However, a second-round submission loss is not the stuff that immediate title shots are made of. The reigning lightweight champion said the Irishman’s defeat did not come as a huge surprise.
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“I wasn’t surprised. I thought it could be a little different, as Diaz didn’t have a fight camp, but I knew Diaz is tough, he can take a lot of damage, and he’s really durable. McGregor is a one round fighter; he doesn’t last more than one round before gassing out. Diaz is a more well-rounded fighter.”
The good news for dos Anjos is that he hasn’t had to wait too long for another bout. On July 7, he will make the second defense of his lightweight title, when he faces former Bellator champion Eddie Alvarez at UFC Fight Night 90 in Las Vegas.
It means the match-up will air on Fight Pass rather than Pay-Per-View, but that is of no concern to dos Anjos, who said he wasn’t disappointed not to get a slot on the more prestigious UFC 200: Cormier vs. Jones 2 fight card.
Alvarez is coming off back-to-back split-decision wins against former Strikeforce champion Gilbert Melendez and former UFC titleholder Anthony Pettis. He and dos Anjos were both born in 1984, started their professional fighting careers at around the same time, and have a similar number of fights on their respective records.
Alvarez will be looking to become the first fighter in history to have won titles with both Bellator and the UFC. As such, dos Anjos has plenty of respect for his upcoming opponent.
“He is a tough opponent. He has good wrestling and good boxing. He has been in many wars, he’s a tough fighter with a big heart, but on July 7, I will make sure I will keep this belt.”
The Brazilian is currently in Singapore to begin his training camp at Evolve MMA. He’s been a member of the fight team there since well before he became a UFC champion and hopes his time spent training in Asia will give him a competitive edge against Alvarez.
“I have had a long relationship with Evolve MMA. I joined Evolve seven years ago. It’s been a big part of my evolution. Every time I come and do a fight camp here, I put on a great performance, and I think it won’t be any different for my next fight. “
Dos Anjos has been a BJJ black belt for a decade, but it is his striking that has really caught the eye in recent fights. The Brazilian has been able to dominate and finish opponents on his feet and said it is something he is working on in Singapore.
“I have been working with Kru Yod for my striking. He is a coach of world champions, having worked with guys such as (Georges St-Pierre). He is a great coach. It’s been a great experience so far.”
Dos Anjos will complete the final stages of his fight camp at Kings MMA under the watchful eye of coach Rafael Cordeiro, but believes he will be in peak condition when the time comes to return to California.
“I love training in Singapore with the best Muay Thai guys in the world and all the BJJ black belt world champions, as well. I love being here with my friends enjoying the great vibes. There is no better way to start my camp. It’s like opening my fight camp with a golden key.”
While McGregor has been left in limbo due to promotional politics, dos Anjos already has a date and an opponent to focus on. With Khabib Nurmagomedov back in action, there’s no shortage of potential future challengers, but the Brazilian says he would still be open to the possibility of fighting the Irish superstar.
“I’m the 155-pound beltholder and if (McGregor) wants to make history and get two belts like he said, he knows the way. I am here to stay.”
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