Rafael dos Anjos has moved on from his proposed fight against Islam Makhachev, but that doesn’t mean the ex-UFC lightweight champion has forgotten about their rivalry.
With multiple fights between the two contenders having been scrapped in the past, dos Anjos — No. 8 at 155 pounds in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — thought he was finally going to get the chance to face Khabib Nurmagomedov’s protégé back in March after his original opponent, Rafael Fiziev, was forced out of their scheduled contest due to a positive test for COVID. A scramble to find a replacement saw Makhachev volunteer his services after he fighting one week earlier, but ultimately an agreement couldn’t be reached and dos Anjos ended up facing Renato Moicano instead.
Now as he prepares for Fiziev again, with the bout rescheduled for July 9, dos Anjos had some choice words for Makhachev, especially after a recent dust up on social media.
“Islam is a p****,” dos Anjos told MMA Fighting. “I took the fight. Straight up, he’s a p****. I took the fight, he took the fight. I went to bed, [I] thought I’m going to fight him, and then in the morning he tried to say otherwise. I’m glad Dana White came over and said the truth.
“He’s trying to play cool and he’s trying to play, ‘I’m going to take the fight.’ He said 170, I said 165, and they kept [saying] 170. I was 170 when I was speaking to the UFC at the time. I was already 170 and sent them the picture on the scale and I was 170. I said, ‘I’ll take this fight against Islam at 170, I just want to fight. I haven’t fought in so long, I had a hard training camp, I want to fight anybody.’ Then in the morning, the deal fell out on his side.”
The problem dos Anjos had with Makhachev wasn’t that the Dagestani contender refused to take a short-notice fight, but rather that Makhachev volunteered to replace Fiziev only to turn down the opportunity when the UFC made a real attempt at booking the matchup.
“I don’t blame anybody for not taking a fight on short-notice, but since you put your name out there, you’ve got to go,” dos Anjos said. “If you don’t put your name, that’s fine. But you can’t [say], ‘OK, I’m taking the fight’ and he accepted, now, ‘I’m not taking it.’ That’s not cool.”
As it stands, Makhachev is still on the sidelines awaiting his next assignment, but he’s been pushing for a fight with Charles Oliveira to crown a new UFC lightweight champion.
Oliveira was stripped of the title after missing weight at UFC 274 only to vanquish Justin Gaethje in impressive fashion with a first-round rear-naked choke. While most still look at Oliveira as the best lightweight in the UFC, the title technically remains vacant at this time.
Initially, the UFC planned to book Makhachev against fellow lightweight contender Beneil Dariush to crown a new No. 1 contender, which is what Oliveira has suggested as well.
Dos Anjos likes that idea very much, especially given his feelings towards Makhachev, but he also believes the scenario could play to his favor in the long run.
“The division is crazy right now,” dos Anjos said. “It was crazy before, but now it’s even crazier. I believe if everything is going according to what Dana [White] said, Islam is going to fight Beneil [Dariush] in October in Abu Dhabi. Since Islam plays all those games against me, he didn’t take the fight, now Dana is going to punish him and keep him to fight Beneil and not going to let him fight for the belt.
“If that happens, I heard the UFC is going to do a big show in Brazil in December, and why not Brazil vs. Brazil? Once I get past Fiziev, me against Charles would be a great fight.”
Ever since returning to lightweight, dos Anjos has been single-minded with his plans to eventually reclaim the title he held from 2015-16.
Facing somebody like Oliveira in his native Brazil would be the perfect scenario for dos Anjos, and he fully intends to call for that opportunity after facing Fiziev in July.
“We’ll see who is the best Brazilian lightweight champion of all time,” dos Anjos said. “That would be great.”
As far as Makhachev goes, dos Anjos isn’t looking at the rivalry as some sort of unfinished business that needs to be settled. The UFC title is really all he cares about now.
That said, dos Anjos will gladly face Makhachev if the fight is offered. But for now he has more important things to think about.
“My focus right now is 100 percent on Rafael Fiziev,” dos Anjos said. “That’s the name that I signed the contract to fight against and that’s the guy that I’m going to beat on July 9.
“Step by step, but I know we are in the same division, me and Islam and all of these guys, and we’re probably going to cross paths in the future.”