Tyron Woodley successfully defended his UFC welterweight belt with a unanimous decision victory over Demian Maia at UFC 214 on July 29, but the promotion had a backup plan in case Maia didn’t accept the title shot on short notice.
Rafael dos Anjos, a former UFC lightweight champion who had just defeated Tarec Saffiedine in his 170-pound debut days before in Singapore, received a call from UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby before Woodley-Maia was done, and was asked if he would take the fight if his fellow Brazilian declined the offer.
"I remember Sean called me and he asked me 'we’re not sure if Demian will take the fight, we’re going to know in a couple of days, and would you take the fight like a backup plan?’ I said of course,” dos Anjos told Ariel Helwani on Tuesday’s edition of The MMA Hour. "I just had a fight in Singapore, I had all interest in fighting for the title. Of course I accepted it.”
Unfortunately for dos Anjos, Maia agreed to the terms, but that doesn’t mean that the former champion stopped training.
"A couple of days later Maia took the fight, but I kept training,” he said. "I kept my camp because we never know. I got hurt before and I don't know what could happen, and I kept training, but the fight happened. I got offered that fight and I took it.”
Nothing happened to both Woodley and Maia, and they fought for five rounds in California. “The Chosen One” remained champion, but didn’t escape from criticism.
"That was a really technical fight,” dos Anjos said. "Woodley, I have respect for him. He defended the title three times in one year. That’s a lot for the champ to be defending the title, but he played safe. He didn’t take many risks."
"Demian had a short camp, he wasn't feeling that confident to push hard and push the pace of the fight,” he continued. "That's what I felt. And Woodley doesn't wanna take any risks, doesn't wanna get taken down, and he played his game and he won the fight. But the fans didn't like the fight.”
"I have over 20 fights in the UFC and I never got booed in my life,” the Brazilian said. "One thing can be sure, I will walk forward and we’re gonna make it a fight. I'm not gonna let him walking around, playing around, playing a strategic game. I will be the aggressor, and we're gonna fight. I'm going to knock him out or he’s gonna knock me out.”
Even though he was offered a fight with Woodley as a UFC 214 backup plan, dos Anjos isn’t the next in line against the champion. The ex-champion is slated to face Neil Magny in his second welterweight bout at Saturday’s UFC 215 pay-per-view card in Edmonton, Canada.
dos Anjos says he wasn’t told by the UFC that a win over Magny will guarantee him a shot at the gold, but assumes he’s next since "there’s no clear name for the next title shot."
"That was a good because I know that I'm really close. I'm closer than I thought for that title,” dos Anjos said. "My focus right now is Neil Magny, but I think I’ll get a strong win over him this weekend, and I think I can be a threat for Tyron Woodley. I know I can be a threat, and one thing can be sure, we gonna fight five rounds."