Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos is on a mission to prove he belongs at the top of the 155-pound mountain, one of many reasons he’s leaving the welterweight division and returning home.
The first chapter in his comeback story features late-replacement Paul Felder, who took over for the ailing Islam Makhachev in the UFC Vegas 14 headliner this Sat. night (Nov. 14, 2020) inside the promotion’s APEX facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“My goal is to be a world champion, like I was, once again,” Dos Anjos told MMA Junkie. “In life, you have to make sacrifices. I think at welterweight, I had a good run. I fought for the title. But I think I’m not too big for welterweight. That gap, that 15-pound gap, is such a big gap. I put the work (in). I’ve been changing my whole diet, my whole body, for the past seven months. … I’m trying to reinvent myself and prove I can be a lightweight champion again.”
It’s been a rough couple of years for the 36 year-old Dos Anjos (29-13), who looked to be an immediate contender at 170 pounds after jumping out to three straight wins. Unfortunately, the Brazilian veteran has since dropped four of his last five.
That said, “RDA” was ranked No. 4 in the world prior to abandoning his post at lightweight.
“Back in the day, everybody fought everybody,” Dos Anjos said. “These days, people are really cautious to take the next step. Nobody wants to take any fights because they want to wait for someone else to take the fight, to wait for someone else’s results. It’s slowed down the division a lot. You can’t just hide behind rankings and try to pick the best fight, the best match, and wait for results for fights that are still on paper. Fighters got to go there and fight.”
A win over Felder won’t be enough to secure an immediate crack at the crown because “The Irish Dragon” is only ranked No. 7. That said, Dos Anjos would probably land in or around the Top 5 and certainly put himself into title contention.
And perhaps the chance to recapture this lost opportunity.