Former champion Rafael dos Anjos has never backed down from a fight so he didn’t blink when the UFC came calling with former lightweight title contender Kevin Lee as his next opponent in the main event of this weekend’s UFC Fight Night card from Rochester, New York.
That said, dos Anjos revealed in the lead up to this weekend’s card that he tried to land several different fights before the UFC finally came back to him with Lee as his opposition.
According to dos Anjos, the UFC first mentioned a possible fight against Nick Diaz and then he asked for a fight against Jorge Masvidal, but he was already getting booked against a different opponent.
He then tried to pursue a showdown with top 10 ranked welterweight Santiago Ponzinibbio, who is coming off seven straight wins in the division.
As much as he wanted that fight, dos Anjos claims that the UFC didn’t want to give Ponzinibbio a higher ranked opponent after he turned down a chance to face Darren Till in England.
“I asked Sean Shelby for [Santiago Ponzinibbio], I wanted that fight,” dos Anjos said ahead of his upcoming fight in New York. “Here’s the thing because he refused a fight with Darren Till in London and Darren Till was ranked No. 3 at the time and I was ranked No. 5 at the time. They gave Ponzinibbio a higher ranked guy and he refused and now he wants to fight the top five guys but he told the UFC he would fight anybody.
“Now he’s desperate. He wants to fight me so bad and I want to fight him, too, but the UFC doesn’t want to make that happen because refused the fight with Till. In retaliation, the UFC doesn’t want to give him anybody ranked higher than him. That’s the truth. I asked for that fight as well but it didn’t happen.”
Dos Anjos is currently ranked No. 3 at welterweight according to the UFC while Ponzinibbio sits back at the No. 9 position with his last coming in November 2018.
If he’s able to get past Lee on Saturday night, Dos Anjos hopes to move forward with his career rather than backwards by getting opponents that would make the most sense for him.
“Of course, I want to get back in the mix. We have a handful of options of fights that make sense,” dos Anjos explained.
“Anthony Pettis wants a match with me. He knocked out Stephen Thompson and called me out. That would be a fight. Even something happens between [Jorge] Masvidal and [Ben] Askren, maybe I can jump in or get the winner. I will be ready for any opportunity.”
Ultimately, dos Anjos wants to get back into the hunt for the title but he understands that’s going to take some time after falling to both current champion Kamaru Usman and former interim champion Colby Covington in consecutive fights.
Still, the veteran Brazilian knows that he can get back into that race given enough time and the kind of opponents that will push him back into title contention.
“Of course I want to be a champion one day,” dos Anjos said. “I want to have a crack at the title. I know I have the skills to get there. It’s all a matter of opportunity. When the opportunity comes up, I will take it.”