With title contenders frequently either dropping down to featherweight or getting injured, the UFC’s 155-pound division is an unpredictable place to be. Rafael dos Anjos has worked his way up to No. 6 in the official rankings with a five-fight winning streak, but the Brazilian still has no idea when, or if, he will get a shot at the belt.
He might have been forgiven for feeling his time had finally come when TJ Grant pulled out of a title match for the second time in quick succession, leaving newly crowned champion Anthony Pettis without an opponent at UFC on Fox 9.
Instead, he was overlooked in favor of Josh Thomson, who at No. 5 is ranked a place higher, but is 2-2 in his last four fights. dos Anjos admits to feeling disappointed by the decision.
“I was really surprised, but I’m going to keep training hard because I’m sure that my time is coming,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
The suspicion is that the UFC might be saving dos Anjos for its first card in Singapore, which is set for Marina Bay Sands on Jan. 4. He is a member of the fight team at nearby Evolve MMA and would likely attract a large contingent of local fans, which makes him an attractive option for matchmakers.
Despite not having a fight scheduled at present, dos Anjos is currently training at Evolve MMA and says he is hoping to get the call to compete in January.
“It would be very good to fight in Singapore and the show will be in January; it is a perfect date for me. Everyone here is already talking about the first-ever UFC show in Singapore.”
Having outpointed perennial 155-pound contender Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 27 last month, dos Anjos is unlikely to be back in action before the end of the year unless another lightweight gets injured and there is another shuffle.
In the meantime, he is helping some of his teammates at Evolve MMA in Singapore prepare for future fights and says he is enjoying the opportunity to roll with arguably the most accomplished submission artist in his division.
“Me and Shinya (Aoki) have been training together. He is an amazing fighter and he has a very different style, so it’s been very good for me. I love to training in Singapore, Evolve is a perfect place to training because we have all the martial arts at the same place and the best in BJJ, Muay Thai and wrestling, and I’m happy to help my teammates who have fights coming up.”
dos Anjos says he was not surprised to see Anthony Pettis defeat Benson Henderson for the second time, but that he hadn’t been expecting him to win by submission. He believes he matches up well with the latest fighter to wear the 155-pound strap and hopes it is a fight that will happen sooner rather than later.
“I think it will be a good fight for the fans and for sure I will be in shape 120 percent and will do my best to have that belt. It is my dream and I think I’m pretty close, in my opinion one fight away from the title shot.”
Khabib Nurmagomedov did not do his title aspirations any harm either with a decision victory over Pat Healy at UFC 165 recently, which takes his record inside the Octagon to 5-0. He and dos Anjos are both coming off five-straight UFC wins and the Brazilian says it’s a fight he would be open to.
“I have never asked for an opponent. I always fight whoever the UFC ask me to fight and if they ask me to fight this fighter I will do it. I want to be the first Brazilian to win the lightweight title and I believe that dream is coming very close now.”