Rafael dos Anjos looks to score his fifth win in a row on Wednesday when he meets Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 27’s co-main event, and get closer to a chance at the lightweight title. Getting at this level was a surprise for Dos Anjos, who almost left the UFC in 2009.
Dos Anjos first entered the Octagon with a 11-2 record, undefeated in the last nine bouts, but he suffered the first knockout loss of his career to Jeremy Stephens at UFC 91. Five months later, the Brazilian lost to Tyson Griffin by decision, but the UFC decided to give him another chance.
"This is my 13th fight in the UFC, and I had to overcome a lot of things to get here," Dos Anjos told MMAFighting.com. "I wasn’t well when I first fought here, but I worked hard and won three in a row after my first losses."
After his first couple losses in the UFC, the jiu-jitsu black belt went 8-2 inside the Octagon, including three finishes, and has evolved incredibly in the stand up game. With four wins since May 2012, he believes the changes started when he left Rio de Janeiro for Los Angeles.
"After that I decided to move to the U.S., I won four in a row," he said. "When you live outside of Brazil you focus only in training. When I moved to California, I started to live just to work. I focus better in training now. It was good for me, but it was tough because I have a wife and two kids. It’s another language, another culture. After all those years we now have good friends here, so life is getting better now. Now that she has more friends, a better social life, I can focus more in my training."
Dos Anjos was basically fighting for his career against Tyson Griffin in 2009. Now, he’s fighting Donald Cerrone to prove he has what it takes to earn a shot at the UFC title.
"I had the perfect training camp, I’m really excited for this fight," he said. "I’m confident. I know my time is coming. He’s a tough guy, but that’s what I want. I want to prove that I have what it takes to get to the title. I worked hard for this fight, my family depends on this and so do I."
Coming of wins over Evan Dunham, Mark Bocek, Anthony Njokuani and Kamal Shalorus, the Brazilian wouldn’t say Cerrone is the toughest fight of his career, but believes sometimes a tough opponent can mean an easy win.
"This is one of the toughest fights of my career," he said. "But I’ve fought some tough guys and sometimes the games don’t match and you can win easily. I will win this convincingly. I don’t want people talking about it like after my last fight. This is going to be my fifth win in a row, and I’m getting closer to the title. My time will come. I’m training hard, I’m not playing here."
Dos Anjos’ decision win over Dunham at UFC on FX 8 in Jaragua do Sul, Brazil was close, but the Brazilian lightweight was happy with his performance, considering what he went through to get there.
"I was not disappointed," he said. "In the situation I believe I fought really well. I couldn’t train for two weeks before the fight after I hurt my ribs. I knew I wasn’t 100 percent, but my last fight was six months before and I needed to fight. It was a close fight, but I believe I deserved the win."