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Rafael dos Anjos: Tyron Woodley wants an easy opponent, Nate Diaz fight ‘would be a joke’

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Rafael Dos Anjos
Rafael dos Anjos insists he should be next for UFC champion Tyron Woodley.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley is willing to put his belt on the line against Nate Diaz, who is on board with the idea. What does No. 1 contender Rafael dos Anjos think about all this?

A former UFC lightweight champion, dos Anjos is 3-0 since moving up to 170 pounds, including an impressive victory over Robbie Lawler in December, and is confident that he is next in line for the title. However, he’s worried that Woodley’s quest for money fights might change the company’s plans.

“Tyron Woodley is only thinking about money,” dos Anjos told MMA Fighting. “Of course that everybody wants to make money and needs money, but he’s running away from logic. He’s trying to force his hand and making a fight that makes no sense.”

Diaz hasn’t fought since his majority decision loss to Conor McGregor back in August 2016. The popular fighter, who lost to dos Anjos in a lightweight bout in 2014, is 1-2 when competing as a welterweight other than his fights with the Irish star.

Diaz’s first welterweight win in the UFC was over Marcus Davis in 2010, almost six years prior to his submission win over “The Notorious” at UFC 196, and he lost decisions to Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald before returning to 155 pounds in 2011.

“He can’t fight in this weight class, and Woodley is trying to force this fight,” dos Anjos said. “(Woodley) was willing to fight Nate Diaz while injured, needing to undergo surgery, because he knows it’s an easy fight and he can win without one arm. I think it’s wrong to hold the entire division like this.”

“He’s trying to get an easy fight and stay on his TV and radio shows as a champion, he wants this status,” he continued. “He doesn’t want to fight someone motivated as myself, someone on a roll. He wants to fight someone that will bring him money. Nate Diaz is more popular than me. I’ve achieved more things than him in my career, but Nate Diaz is more popular, so if this fight happens now it’s not about who deserves it more, but who’s more popular. He definitely wants an easier fight.”

Even in an age where money fights tend to get a preference over rightful contenders, dos Anjos is still confident that he will be the next in line.

“I’ve earned it,” he said. “I’ve heard Dana White two or three times on free TV say that I’m next, and my fight with Lawler was promoted as winner fights for the belt. I don’t think it makes any sense that a win who never won at welterweight to jump the line like this. I don’t think it makes any sense.”

And what happens if Woodley does fight Diaz next? Would the Brazilian petition for an interim belt?

“No. Enough of interim belts,” he said. “I think that if Diaz vs. Woodley happens, it’s for the belt. An interim belt (would make sense) if the champion wasn’t fighting. But that would be a joke. … I want to fight for the belt. That’s what I was promised. But if this guy wants to sit on his belt and not fight, I have kids to raise, family to support, so I’d definitely take another fight.”

Dos Anjos’ ideal scenario would be a fight between late May and July, but he would adapt and change plans if the company offered him a fight with Woodley in the main event of UFC 224, scheduled for May 12 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Tyron Woodley and I in Brazil would be great, but the guy doesn’t want to fight me here, in his home, imagine in Rio,” dos Anjos said. “He would never accept something like that as a champion. And I don’t even think he would be healthy to fight in May — unless the UFC pays him very well, because that’s what he’s really going after now: money.”

Woodley tweeted in response to dos Anjos on Wednesday, basically saying he doesn’t care what RDA thinks and dos Anjos can go fight fellow contender Colby Covington.