Rafael dos Anjos will meet bigger competition inside the Octagon from now on, but life is better.
Former UFC lighweight champion dos Anjos has decided to gain 15 pounds and compete as a welterweight, and his debut against Tarec Saffiedine at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 111 in Singapore is the first step in the right direction.
The Brazilian started his camp in the United States, training with Eduardo Pamplona, Bubba Jenkins, Jason Parillo and Felipe Furao, and flew to Singapore three weeks before the fight to get used to the time zone and weather for the fight, training at Evolve. dos Anjos' wife and kids stayed behind in California, and he expects to bring the win back home for them this time.
"Vitor Belfort said something right: there’s no glory without sacrifice,” dos Anjos told MMA Fighting. "I left them there and am sacrificing here. It’s hard to stay away from them, but, God willing, this time… Over the last 12 months, I stayed away from them for two months total, and this time I’ll get the job done. I couldn’t the last couple of times, but I believe in God that I will get it done this time."
Six days before the official weigh-ins, dos Anjos had 15 pounds to cut. It seems a lot, but the 32-year-old athlete celebrated the fact that he would stop when he hit the 170-pound mark.
"At lightweight, I had nothing else to get rid of but still had pounds to lose, so it’s being easier now,” he said. "It’s been easier, less stressful. I’m happier, only thinking about the fight.”
After facing the who’s who of the lightweight division, defeating the likes of Donald Cerrone (twice), Anthony Pettis, Nate Diaz and Ben Henderson, “RDA" debuts in a new division against former Strikeforce titleholder Saffiedine.
And even though “Sponge" hasn’t been the same in the Octagon, racking up a 2-3 UFC record after leaving Strikeforce with six victories in seven fights, dos Anjos expects a tough challenge.
"He’s a striker, but this is a MMA fight,” dos Anjos said. "I have more weapons, I believe I have more takedowns and jiu-jitsu, but I won’t give everything I have to get him down. Of course, I’ll try to take him down, but the fight starts standing and I’ll see which opportunities he gives me. I’ll walk straight forward and put pressure the entire time. That’s how I fight."
The jiu-jitsu black belt collected ‘Performance of the Night’ bonuses in the past for his knockouts over Cerrone and Henderson, but hasn’t submitted an opponent since May 2012, when he choked out Kamal Sharolus.
"I want to win,” dos Anjos said. "It doesn’t need to be in a flashy way, ‘oh, I have to finish him.’ No. I want to win, I want to win well. Of course, I’ll use my strategy, but I don’t fight to score points and win a decision. I’ll always fight for the submission or the knockout. It's always good to win by submission or knockout. My last submission was five years ago, but I won’t waste an opportunity this time."
dos Anjos knows he can quickly put his name in the mix for a title shot in the near future with a good win over Saffiedine, but won't think about the possibility of joining the small group of fighters who won UFC belts in two different weight classes.
"He’s a ranked fighter, so I’ll be in a good position in the division with a win over him in my welterweight debut,” dos Anjos said. "Demian (Maia) is going for the belt now, there are other guys ahead of me. I’ll get there slowly, no rush. My time will come.
"When I relaxed and stopped thinking about the lightweight belt, that’s when it came. I’ll continue fighting and worrying about winning, doing my job. The belt is the consequence."