Rafael dos Anjos is, along with every other Brazilian fighter on the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) roster, hoping to get an opportunity to fight in his homeland. With so many of his compatriots vying for a spot on the South American cards, competition is intense, but for the time being the 27 year old has no problem heading into hostile territory.
At UFC 154 in Montreal, he will be doing just that when he takes on Canadian Marc Bocek, who trains at the nearby Tristar Gym. It will be the eleventh time the Brazilian has fought for ZUFFA and he is determined to silence the fans by finishing the hometown hero,
"The crowd will be on his side but of course I am prepared for that, I like this feeling, to fight against the crowd."
Dos Anjos did not make the most auspicious start to his UFC career, losing back to back fights to Tyson Griffin and Jeremy Stephens. He bounced back to put together three straight wins and was just edging into the title picture when he suffered a broken jaw in his fight against Clay Guida.
That injury left him on the sidelines for the best part of a year but he has come back stronger and is 3-1 in his four fights since returning, with a split decision against Gleison Tibau his only recent loss. After easily submitting Kamal Shalorus back in May, he got a last-minute call up to replace Paul Taylor and defeated Anthony Njokuani at UFC on Fuel 4 in July.
Typically, UFC fighters have to wait around six months between bouts and Dos Anjos says that he enjoyed getting to fight two times in the space of three months,
"Fighting regularly is better for me if I can do that. I got lucky because no injury this year so I am fit and I thank God for that."
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) black belt divides his training time between Brazil and Singapore. He is currently in Asia to prepare for his fight next month and also took in ONE FC: 'Rise of Kings' last weekend when four of his Evolve MMA team mates were on the card,
"I'm been here a week and I came to watch my Brazilian teams mates Zoro and Brodinho fight and to train myself because I have a fight coming up and I need to improve my Muay Thai skills."
Evolve MMA is home to some legendary Muay Thai trainers such as Namsaknoi Yudthagarngamtorn, Orono Wor Petchpun and Lamnamoon Sor Sumalee and after Dos Anjos' surprise KO win over fellow BJJ black belt George Sotiropoulos he attributed the improvement in his stand up to the training he had received in Singapore.
For Dos Anjos dividing his time between the Gordo Jiu Jitsu academy in Brazil and Evolve MMA in Singapore gives him the best of both worlds when it comes to fight preparation,
"In Brazil the focus is always in boxing and Jiu Jitsu. Here in Singapore the focus is Muay Thai with knees and elbows and for me it is the perfect combination."
With his fight exactly five weeks away he is just entering the most intense stage of his training camp and plans to continue training in Asia before returning to Brazil in time to adjust to the time difference,
" For me it is good training In Singapore because there are a lot of lightweights like Shinya Aoki, Zorobabel Moreira and Eddie Ng and I like training with these guys, they are high level fighters. I learn a lot every day from the Muay Thai champions, it is a very good experience for me."
Next up for Aoki is likely to be a ONE FC title shot against the winner of the fight between Kotetsu Boku and Eduard Folayang. Doe Anjos was cageside for Boku's surprise come from behind win over Moreira and is backing his team mate to avenge that loss,
"Moreira is better fighter than Boku by far but Moreira did a wrong strategy. Between Aoki and Boku I think Aoki will win."
However he stops short of offering such bold predictions for his own fight at UFC 154 next month,
"Bocek is a tough opponent, I am working on all situation and I will be ready for all situations. It will be a good fight, I will do my best to put on a good fight for the fans."