Six and a half years after his first UFC fight, Rafael dos Anjos will finally enter the Octagon to challenge the lightweight champion.
dos Anjos earned a shot at 155-pound kingpin Anthony Pettis at UFC 185, on March 14, after winning eight of his past nine bouts. It was capped off by a unanimous decision win over Nate Diaz at UFC on FOX 13 in December, and that was the best news he could ever get after holidays.
"I was pretty excited to start 2015 with this news," dos Anjos told MMAFighting.com. "Right after my fight with Nate Diaz, Dana White said at the press conference that I was likely the next in line. Nothing was set, but I believe in his word. And when they told me the exact date, the perfect date… Ten weeks is exactly what I need to do the perfect training camp for this fight."
UFC 185 takes place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, and the Brazilian knows he needs to be smart in his training camp to avoid injuries heading into the biggest fight of his life.
"I have to do an intelligent training camp this time, just like for my last fight," he said. "It’s going to be my fifth fight in 13 months, so I have to be smart and don’t get hurt or over train. Fighting for the belt is the perfect motivation for me, and my body has to be in perfect shape for this fight. Five fights in one year isn’t easy, but I’m ready to go. It’s time for me to fight for the title."
Pettis, who made his MMA debut a year before dos Anjos joined the UFC, will put his lightweight title on the line for the second time, and showed his improvement in the grappling area with back-to-back submission wins over Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez.
dos Anjos, originally a jiu-jitsu fighter who has improved a lot in the striking area with the help of veteran coach Rafael Cordeiro, praises Pettis for his evolution, but thinks he’s beatable.
"Anthony Pettis is a talented fighter, really tough, a champion, and is coming off submissions over Ben Henderson and Gilbert Melendez, but I see holes in his game," dos Anjos said. "I won’t say what and give away my strategy, but I do. Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Pettis is really good, and he proved that, but he’s not unbeatable. That’s what I mean when I say I see holes in his game. I hear people saying he’s unbeatable, but he’s not. He’s unpredictable, he does different things in the fight, but he’s not unbeatable, and I will bring this title to Brazil."
"Anthony Pettis showed he’s complete, that he’s evolving," he continued. "I don’t want to take anything away from his wins, but Ben Henderson made a rookie mistake, defended it the wrong way, but props to Anthony Pettis for getting the win. In the Melendez fight, the guillotine was really tight, and when you lock a position in a scramble it’s really tough to escape. Anthony Pettis is evolving a lot, but I train jiu-jitsu for year and I will be at my best in this fight."
Clay Guida is the only man to beat Pettis inside the Octagon, and he did that by taking Pettis down and controlling the fight on the ground for 15 minutes in 2011. Coming off three dominant victories with a pair of finishes, dos Anjos wants to win the UFC gold, but he won’t play it safe in order to win at all costs.
"It’s finally my time, my chance for the title, and I’m going there to win," dos Anjos said. "I don’t go into a fight to win by decision, but knowing that this is an important fight, I have to do my homework and study this well. It’s a 25-minute fight, but I move forward all the time, trade punches and kicks with him, take him down, work on the ground.
"I will win this fight," he added. "He won’t have to worry about me trying to take him down all the time, because I will punch him, I will kick him, and I will knee him too."