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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Rafael dos Anjos went through a handful of possible fight options before he ultimately ended up fighting Kevin Lee in Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 10.
According to the former UFC champ dos Anjos (28-11 MMA, 17-9 UFC), one of those names was none other than Nick Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC). It’s a matchup he would have enjoyed, but given the unpredictable nature of Diaz – who hasn’t fought since January 2015 and is by all accounts retired – he wasn’t going to wait forever for. That’s when dos Anjos went with Lee (17-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC).
“We talked about some other options,” dos Anjos told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at UFC on ESPN+ 10 open workouts. “(Santiago) Ponzinibbio, (Jorge) Masvidal and even (UFC matchmaker) Sean (Shelby) called me to say, ‘Hey, Nick Diaz might be interested in a fight with you.’ Things did not work out and the only name they throw for me was Kevin. He’s a top contender at lightweight coming up a division and I can’t sit on my sofa waiting for the perfect fight. I’ve got to work.
“Fighters got to be active,” dos Anjos continued. “I don’t have any injury, nothing to hold me back. I want to be active. I want to fight. I know he’s a tough guy and good wrestler and good jiu-jitsu and very good, well-rounded fighter, but I don’t think he’s going to have the size advantage on this fight. It’ll be fun. It’ll be a good fight.”
For dos Anjos, the need to get back in the octagon trumped any specific matchup. He’s currently on a two-fight losing skid and is in need of a victory to re-enter the title contender conversation, which he was at the forefront of just one year ago.
Dos Anjos, 34, said his entire life has been filled with obstacles, though, and he feels there’s plenty of motivation to thrive in another difficult situation.
“That’s where the hunger comes from, is climbing back,” dos Anjos said. “I want to get back and that’s what I’m looking for. I got a seven-month-old baby at home. I don’t come from a wealthy family and I’ve got to make things work out for my family, I’ve got to provide for the family and I’m the only one. I got to make it work. I’m not in a good situation right now coming off two losses back-to-back, but I know I’m capable to turn things around.”
UFC on ESPN+ 10 takes place at Blue Cross Arena. The entire card streams on ESPN+.
One of the things that brings dos Anjos comfort going into fight night is that he is not living in unfamiliar territory. He’s lost back-to-back fights twice before, and every time he’s avoided his losing skid falling to three. He has confidence he can make that happen against Lee, who dos Anjos expects to face difficultly in his first fight at 170 pounds.
“I’ve been on this situation in my UFC debut I lost two in a row then as I move up in weight, right before I move up I lose two in a row, I lost my title and my follow-up fight,” dos Anjos said. “I was always able to get a good win-streak. This time’s no different. I have five fights on this new division. Three wins, two losses to current champion and interim champion. I’m looking forward to Saturday night and getting back on that winning track.”
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