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Rafael dos Anjos on Khabib Nurmagomedov: ‘The next fight will be a different fight’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Rafael dos Anjos became the new UFC lightweight champion, and the feeling was "priceless" following a dominating victory over Anthony Pettis at UFC 185.

The Brazilian veteran, who claimed the 155-pound belt after winning eight of his last fights inside in the UFC, celebrated his victory with his family inside the Octagon in Dallas. dos Anjos, who said before the fight he wouldn’t let anyone beat him up in front of his kids, really meant it.

"It was priceless," dos Anjos told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "Being the UFC champion and having my kids in the Octagon, my wife, them holding the belt. That was like a movie. I’m so glad to be in this position. Just to be fighting for the belt, I was already happy. No pressure at all."

Life didn’t change much for dos Anjos yet. Two days after a 25-minute fight, it was a normal day for the new UFC champion. The other parent’s reaction when he took his kids to the school wasn’t the same, though. Everybody wanted to talk about the fight, and Rafinha, dos Anjos’ younger son, seems to be the proudest one.

"My young one doesn’t stop talking about the belt. He wants to see the belt all the time," he said. "He loves cameras. And my older one, his friends in the school, all the kids were crazy about my performance. I’m just happy. Mission accomplished."

dos Anjos re-watched the bout for the first time on Sunday, and celebrates that he was able to put on the strategy he was working on with his coaches.

"I watched the fight yesterday. It was a great fight," he said. "I put a good strategy. I worked him hard. That was the plan, what I expected.

"I got in the fight really confident that the best thing would happen for me," he continued. "I trained hard for that day and I knew I would be champion. ‘I’m gonna hit him hard, walk forward, put pressure and win’. Everything worked perfect."

On his post-fight interview, Pettis said he couldn’t see out of his right eye during the whole fight after eating dos Anjos first left hand, and the Brazilian noticed the same thing in Dallas.

"I was in my corner between rounds and I looked at the other side and I saw him like uncomfortable with that eye. I said ‘that’s the key. I have to put pressure’," dos Anjos said. "Anthony is a great champion, he changed my game a little bit, started going to my left side, but I’m glad I did my strategy well. Like I said in the interview before the fight, everybody has a plan before the punch. The first punch I landed, he felt. The punch changed the fight.

"When I landed the first takedown in the end of the round, I thought ‘man, I got two good weapons here’. Once I hit him hard, he’ll forget about the takedown because my plan wasn’t going straight for the takedown. The plan was straight punch and keep the fight standing. Once I saw that opening for the takedown, I thought ‘man, now I have one more weapon’, then I started using it in the last rounds."

dos Anjos’ win over Pettis seemed even more impressive after he revealed, right after the bout, that he couldn’t grapple or wrestle for three weeks after hurting his right knee. It didn’t stop him from dominating "Showtime" in Dallas, but will have to be taken care now.

"I woke up around 3 a.m. (Sunday) to go to the restroom, and I couldn’t walk," he said. "I don’t know what’s going on. I need to have a MRI and make sure. My foot is kind of sore too because I kicked him a lot, kicked his elbow. I’m gonna be fine. I need to do a MRI to make sure my body is okay."

"(The injury) didn’t bother me at all (during the fight), but I was just afraid to kick with my right leg. I just kicked him a couple times. I like to go for body kicks with my strong leg, but I wanted to save my leg."

The next lightweight contender will emerge from a UFC 187 bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Donald Cerrone on May 23, and dos Anjos doesn’t have a preference.

"I still have that loss against Khabib," he said. "Khabib has a tough fight, Cerrone is a tough opponent. I don’t know how it’s gonna be to come back from a bad injury and fight against him, but we’ll see. If he beats Cerrone, okay, I’ll fight. I don’t have any preference. I’ll be ready for anyone of them."

dos Anjos lost to Nurmagomedov in 2014 and beat Cerrone the year before, and agrees that a rematch with the only man to beat him in years would be more interesting.

"Yeah, I think so, because I lost to him and I would like to get it cleared," he agreed. "But it’s another time now. Everything changed. The next fight will be a different fight."

With Nurmagomedov vs. Cerrone scheduled for May 23, dos Anjos will have some time to get his injuries healed and enjoy his family – and that’s all he wants right now.

"I fought five times for the last 11 months. I had six camps, because I had one fight cancelled against Rustam Khabilov. I had six camps in 11 months. My body is bruised up," he said. "I never had so many injuries in my life, and for the last month I started feeling different injuries in my body. I just want to spend some time with my family. I don’t want to think about fighting right now."

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