Rafael dos Anjos is back. Well, almost.
The former UFC lightweight champion, who looked near unbeatable when conquering the likes of Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone in title fights, has had a tough time of it since losing his 155lb championship, but appears to have now turned the corner as a rejuvenated welterweight.
His 170lb debut in June resulted in a decision win against Tarec Saffiedine, while last time out, in September, dos Anjos impressively submitted Neil Magny.
New weight class, new mindset, all of a sudden defeats to Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson seem a long time ago.
“I feel way better at 170,” dos Anjos, 27-9, told Fighters Only editor Michael Owens. “Fight week and the whole fight camp is way less stressful. It just changed my life. I enjoy my training more, I’m happier, I’m stronger, I’m not getting hurt at all in training. It’s good to be in good spirits when you’ve got a fight coming up.
“I think when people say I’m not big enough they’ve never met me in person; just because I’m not tall doesn’t mean I’m not heavy. I’m thick. It’s part of my genetics. I have a big head, big feet and big bones. They don’t know how you cut weight. They’ve never cut weight or fought.”
An ambitious fighter whether at lightweight or welterweight, dos Anjos hasn’t switched divisions to simply make up the numbers. Instead, he, like so many others, has a date with 170lb champion Tyron Woodley in mind. Perhaps not now, but certainly in the not-too-distant future.
“I have to keep working and doing my job,” said the 32-year-old. “The fact I’m a former world champion means the wait could be shorter. I just beat the number six guy; I’m number five now.
“I got the call for the title after my fight with Saffiedine, but Demian Maia ended up taking the fight. I was in line for that fight. I was ready! My time is going to come. I’m going to keep doing my job and it will happen.”
He could be right.
Picture: Tom Bear