Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos has decided to move up to the welterweight division in 2017.
dos Anjos won eight of nine fights between 2012 and 2014 to earn a shot at lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in 2015. After scoring a decision win over “Showtime”, the Brazilian defended the title once, stopping Donald Cerrone in the first round, before losing to Eddie Alvarez.
A five-round decision defeat against Tony Ferguson in November, four months after his title loss, was his last bout at 155 pounds.
"What made me move up to welterweight was all the effort I was doing, to look at my health and have a good life,” dos Anjos told MMA Fighting. "I wanted to stop sacrificing so much. For how much I was making, it’s not worth doing all this effort and destroy my body.
"Most of the fighters have 10 or 15 fights in this division. I have 27 fights in this division. When I was 16 years old, I weighed 176 pounds. It’s just too much for me. I already got the belt. And for (the money) I’m making now, it's not worth it. One day, if there’s a superfight or something that gives me good money, I can make this sacrifice and go back to 155 again, but not now."
According to the former champion, cutting down to 155 pounds became such a difficult task that he passed out multiple times before his UFC Fight Night 90 clash with Alvarez in July 2016.
"My body changed between 2014 and 2015,” he said. "I fought five times in 11 months, during that run for the title. I don’t see anyone doing this. I see Cerrone doing this, but I don’t see other doing this. I walk around with 187, 198 pounds, easy, and to cut this weight five times in 11 months was too much.
"I eat well, but after that I felt that my body got bigger. I was holding the weight more. It was tough to make weight against Cerrone, and I passed out three times making weight for the Eddie Alvarez fight. One day you get to the limit."
The Brazilian talent hasn't competed in the welterweight division in a decade, but doesn't expect to feel the difference facing bigger competition inside the Octagon.
"I don’t think 15 pounds will make such a big difference,” dos Anjos said. "The other guys are bigger and stronger, for sure, but I’m used to training with guys that big. I also think that they are big, but they cut weight. They will go through something I won’t. I'll have to cut weight for 170, but I'll cut less. I fought well at 155, but I don't think I ever came close to my best at 155. I think I’ll get to my best at 170 pounds.”
dos Anjos hopes to be back in action in late April or early May, and his plan is simple: add the 170-pound championship to his résumé.
"I’m a former champion, but I’m not thinking about rankings right now, if I’m close to the belt,” dos Anjos said. "There are other fighters ahead of me. Demian Maia deserves to be the next for the belt. I'll quietly move up, as always, and when the opportunity comes, I’ll embrace it. I’m here to fight the best.
"There are several fighters I could fight right now,” he added. "I never called anyone out and won’t do it now, but I’m here to fight the best. A top 5, a top 10, I’ll fight anyone."