Rafael dos Anjos’ interim welterweight title fight against Colby Covington ended up scheduled for UFC 225 in Chicago, however the original plan was for dos Anjos to meet the controversial American at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The UFC audibled to the latter date earlier this month ahead of its 25th Anniversary press conference, and dos Anjos believes Conor McGregor’s meltdown in Brooklyn — and the ensuing fallout from the Irishman’s bus attack that resulted in the cancellation of three fights — played a primary role in the promotion’s decision.
“I flew to New York to have that fight announced in Rio, but I think it was [switched] because of that Conor thing,” dos Anjos said Monday on The MMA Hour. “Like, after that incident with the bus and all of that, I think the UFC was kinda afraid. Colby’s been talking a lot of crap about Brazilians and if something happened there — if the security couldn’t hold one guy, how can they hold a Brazilian crowd [going] crazy because of the stuff that this guy’s been saying?”
Covington has become a polarizing figure in Brazil because of his anti-Brazilian rhetoric. “RDA” believes the UFC’s desire avoid another security concern after the havoc McGregor at UFC 223 led to the switch from Rio de Janeiro to Chicago.
Dos Anjos said he found out about the promotion’s decision upon landing in Brooklyn just hours before the press conference. He admitted that he was disappointed to learn that he wouldn’t be able to compete in his hometown for the first time since 2008.
“I have to say yes, [I was disappointed] a little bit, especially because of the whole story of the thing,” dos Anjos said. “Like, he went there, he went to Brazil, went to Sao Paulo, he beat Demian Maia there, and after he’s talking a lot of crap about the Brazilians. So to have this fight in Rio would be a good story, especially getting the belt there, it would be really cool. But, I think, the one thing, Rio, it’s not Sao Paulo. The crowds in Sao Paulo, it’s different than the crowds in Rio. Rio people are more savage.
“But I think I’m still going to have the crowd on my side,” dos Anjos added. “It’ll be a good opportunity. I think everything happens for a reason, but I think the location — it’s not going to change the result of the fight. It’ll be even better to beat this guy in his own country, having the American crowd on my side.”
The question stands, though: Was Covington really going to be in danger in Rio de Janeiro?
Given how far Covington has taken things, dos Anjos thinks something bad actually could’ve happened at UFC 224.
“Some fans, they don’t understand the business,” dos Anjos said. “People get offended, you know? They get offended by, some guy comes to your country and curses everybody and talks bad about the whole crowd. People get [upset], and I get it. I get it. I understand them.”
That being said, dos Anjos is confident things won’t be any different in Chicago when it comes to the feelings fight fans hold toward Covington.
In the eyes of “RDA,” the American’s gimmick appears to be widely despised.
“Not only the Brazilians. Every time I hang out by my house and do my things, my American fans, they always come to me and they always say, ‘Hey, please shut up that guy. Please shut up that guy. Shut up Colby,’” dos Anjos said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Covington continued his war of words against dos Anjos and the country of Brazil at the UFC’s press conference in Brooklyn. Dos Anjos wasn’t surprised. He also indicated that he isn’t affected one way or another by Covington’s choice of how to promote himself.
However, dos Anjos did find plenty of humor in the contrast between Covington’s on-stage persona and the way he carried himself backstage, away from the cameras.
“The funny thing is that, backstage, he just [stayed looking at] his phone,” dos Anjos said. “He wasn’t even looking around. That’s how he is. He’s that guy that, when he’s in front of the cameras, he changes. He becomes a different person. But backstage, he just was with his sunglasses, looking at his phone, and not even looking around. So what kind of gangster is that? Gangster that when things got rough, he called police? What kind of people — I don’t get it. So fake.
“He’s trying to pretend to be something that he’s not. He’s trying to act and he’s being fake, and I can’t wait to expose this guy.”