Rafael dos Anjos had another reason to smile on Sept. 17, when his wife Cris gave birth to his son Roger. A father of three now, dos Anjos decided against taking fights too far away from California during Roger’s first months. On Nov. 30, he finally returns to the Octagon.
Booked against unbeaten welterweight Kamaru Usman in the main event of Friday’s TUF 28 Finale in Las Vegas, dos Anjos celebrates his personal life even if it affected his training regime sometimes. Roger served as motivation for the former lightweight champion, who attempts to get back on track in the UFC after a loss to Colby Covington in July.
”Life is great, man. The little boy came to give me extra motivation,” dos Anjos told MMA Fighting. “I’m surprised by what I was able to push in training with less sleep, less resting, but it’s truly divine. It’s an inspiration, extra motivation to see that boy every day and then go to the gym to train.”
With a busy training schedule for such a key fight for his career in the sport, dos Anjos relied on his wife to change late-night and early-morning dirty diapers, and admits it wasn’t easy for her.
”Cris handled everything,” dos Anjos said. “I felt bad sometimes, early in the morning, because it was too tiresome for her, she has worked hard over the past two months, but, God willing, I will come back with the victory to give her a better life.”
The first loss on his record since moving up to welterweight, a defeat to Covington for the interim welterweight gold, hurt his plans to become another fighter to win belts in different weight classes. Yet, the Brazilian sees Usman as the perfect platform to put him back in line for the winner of the title unification bout between Tyron Woodley and Covington that will likely come in early 2019.
”He’s a tough guy,” dos Anjos said of Usman. “Analyzing the division, I think he’s the only guy that can put me in collision course with the belt now. There are other guys that I’ve fought already, like Robbie Lawler, and Darren Till is no longer in the division and just lost to Tyron Woodley, so I think Usman is the only guy that can put me back in the title picture.
”My focus is 100 percent on Friday, getting there and doing what I trained, win the fight, but I think (I will be next for the belt with a win), yes,” he continued. “It will be a huge step towards the belt. Beating a guy that is undefeated in the UFC, who was the backup fighter for a title fight, that’s the fight that makes sense to take me back to the belt.”
Usman and Covington have similar fighting styles, and dos Anjos wasn’t able to handle the American’s wrestling and pace when they fought for five rounds not that long ago at UFC 225. It wasn’t his night and he didn’t perform well, dos Anjos admits, citing his ear injury — that required surgery shortly after — as one of the things that affected his performance in the cage that night.
Frustrated by Covington’s wrestling game and unable to put his strategy in practice, dos Anjos lost a decision to Covington in Chicago. Five months later, another five-five-round clash with a wrestler is ahead of him, but RDA guarantees things have changed.
”He’s strong, cuts a lot of weight, so he will definitely slow down a bit towards the end of the fight,” dos Anjos said. “That’s my focus, to work on my conditioning and be strong, to fight well for five rounds. I was doing five rounds with five different sparring partners, one round each, so my conditioning is sharp. I’ll go there and get it done.”