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Rafael dos Anjos: ‘It feels great’ that Islam Makhachev lost title shot after his ‘little games’ ahead of UFC 272

This past weekend, Rafael dos Anjos took home a five-round unanimous decision victory over Renato Moicano in the co-main event of UFC 272. It was a dominant performance from dos Anjos, who beat up Moicano for the better part of 25 minutes and even had the commentary team suggesting that the bout should be stopped on several occasions. But if the fight was somewhat easy for dos Anjos, the journey to it was anything but.

The former UFC lightweight champion was originally scheduled to face Rafael Fiziev in the main event of UFC Vegas 48, however visa issues for Fiziev resulted in the matchup being postponed to UFC 272. Then things went astray again just a few days before their new fight date, as Fiziev came down with COVID-19 and was forced off the card. The UFC scrambled to find a replacement for dos Anjos on just a few days’ notice before ultimately settling on Moicano — and all the uncertainty led to a very difficult fight week for dos Anjos.

“My last two weeks were so stressful,” dos Anjos said this week on The MMA Hour. “First, my fight got postponed. Then, I had two potential opponents but in two divisions. So I didn’t know if I should cut weight or eat something. It was very — the fight got postponed, then opponent got COVID and we got a new opponent, but two different divisions — it was kind of crazy. I’m glad I got it done and it’s in the past. I got the victory and I’m gonna enjoy it a little bit.”

Though it all worked out in the end, Moicano was not the first choice of opponents for dos Anjos. After Fiziev announced his withdrawal from the bout, Islam Makhachev, fresh off a short-notice domination of Bobby Green the week before, threw his name out as a possible replacement for dos Anjos.

Dos Anjos and Makhachev have been scheduled to face each other three times before, but have yet to actually meet inside the cage. It looked as if the two men might finally get the chance to face off, but dos Anjos said Makhachev declined the chance at the eleventh hour.

“You guys heard what Dana [White] said, Islam didn’t take the fight,” dos Anjos said. “I said 165 [pounds] — like Bobby Green jumped into the fight with him at 160, he couldn’t fight at 165? Then he said 170 and they called me and said, ‘Islam wants to go 170.’ I said OK, no problem. ... But the next morning, ‘Oh, no, no, we’re not taking the fight.’

“I called his bluff. I think that’s what it was. They probably thought, ‘RDA will never take this fight at 170,’ but you know what, I was training, I didn’t want to waste a whole fight camp, I hadn’t fought for 16 months, I just wanted to go fight someone.”

Though he wasn’t given a a concrete explanation, dos Anjos says he heard that Makhachev asked for “a million dollars or something” to take the fight — an accusation Makhachev subsequently denied.

With his dominant win over Bobby Green at UFC Vegas 49, Makhachev had appeared to finally punch his ticket to a shot at the winner of the UFC 274 lightweight title clash between Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. However, following the fiasco of this past week, UFC president Dana White said Makhachev would now need to face Beneil Dariush, the man he was originally set to fight at UFC Vegas 49, to earn a title shot.

Given all that has transpired between he and Makhachev, plus his own friendship with Dariush, dos Anjos couldn’t help but be a little pleased with how things turned out.

“It feels great, man. It feels really good,” dos Anjos said, laughing. “I even texted Beneil [Dariush], ‘Now I got your fight back!’ That’s the price he pays for playing politics. Play these little games, and now he had his title shot secured and now he’s got to fight another one.”

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