It’s a bit ironic that Rafael dos Anjos believes the best thing for his career was moving from Brazil to the United States – yet now one of the biggest sources of motivation for him is the chance to go back there to fight.
Dos Anjos (18-6 MMA, 7-4 UFC) will square off with Evan Dunham (14-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) later this month in a pivotal lightweight bout at UFC on FX 8. Dunham is ranked No. 15 in USA TODAY and MMAjunkie.com’s latest 155-pound rankings, and dos Anjos is just behind him.
UFC on FX 8 takes place May 18 at Arena Jaragua in Jaragua do Sul, Santa Catarina, Brazil. The event’s main-card airs on FX following prelims on FUEL TV and Facebook.
After starting his UFC career 0-2, dos Anjos has been on a 7-2 run, including wins over high-end names like Terry Etim, George Sotiropoulos, Anthony Njokuani and Mark Bocek. But with three straight wins, a win over Dunham might be his biggest victory yet – especially considering Dunham called him out.
“He beat two guys who beat me before,” dos Anjos told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “Maybe he thinks just because he beat those guys, he can beat me, too. I want to prove to him that he’s wrong.”
Dos Anjos hasn’t fought in Brazil since he signed with the UFC, and he’s glad to be part of what has been a highly successful return for the promotion to the South American cradle of MMA.
“I’m so happy to fight in Brazil again,” he said. “My last fight in Brazil was 2008, so I’m so excited for this fight. The UFC in Brazil now is so famous, and I’m excited to get there and put on a good show.”
But continuing to live and train in his home country just wasn’t in the cards for the 28-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Instead, he uprooted his life there and, with his wife and two kids, moved to the States. He said the impact on his MMA game has been all positive now that he’s training primarily in Southern California.
“When I was in Brazil, I had many problems at my old gym,” he said. “Many guys didn’t show up to train and I had to train by myself many times. So that’s why I decided to come here to train. I train with the best gyms here – my wrestling with Jacob Harman, I train my muay Thai with Master Rafael Cordeiro. I’ve got great partners here, great coaches and I think it was a really smart decision when I decided to come here. Here, there’s always someone wanting to help you.”
Dos Anjos knows Dunham likely will be a more than game opponent for him. The Oregon native started his career 11-0 before a controversial split-decision loss to Sean Sherk, and though he’s gone just 3-2 since then with losses to Melvin Guillard and T.J. Grant, he always comes to fight – including three “Fight of the Night” bonuses to show for his efforts.
“He’s a tough opponent and he’s got a big heart,” dos Anjos said. “But I’ve been training so hard. I’ve got a goal in my life. I’m training as hard as I can and I’m going to go 100 percent and I will win this fight for sure. I’ve been training my standup and wrestling, my BJJ. He’s a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, too. And he’s good at wrestling. But I think I’ve got a better all-around game, I move around better in the cage, I’ve got better footwork. And I’ll use my speed – that’s the game plan.”
Dunham will be fighting dos Anjos with the crowd against him, like so many American fighters before him who have ventured into Brazil to fight a Brazilian.
And while there may be pressure on Dunham in enemy territory, there sometimes can be just as much pressure on the hometown fan favorite. But dos Anjos doesn’t believe that’s likely to make much difference, at least not where he’s concerned.
“Many of my friends are going to be there, but I feel no pressure,” he said. “I’m not an emotional fighter. I’ll be there, and I’m going to do my job, same as the last time.”
For the latest on UFC on FX 8, stay tuned to the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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