Rafael dos Anjos was enjoying his vacation when his phone buzzed. Dana White, president of the UFC, wrote that the company needed a main event for its card on ESPN on July 20. It was too soon for the Brazilian, who had finished Kevin Lee in the fourth round weeks before, but the negotiation went so well he agreed to fight Leon Edwards in San Antonio, Texas.
That’s how the RDA vs. Edwards welterweight main event was booked for the UFC’s card at the AT&T Center, dos Anjos told MMA Fighting ahead of his fourth straight five-round contest inside the Octagon and 41st professional fight.
“Dana White himself texted me and we negotiated something good for me, and that’s why I took this fight,” dos Anjos said. “What the UFC really wanted was to book this fight for Uruguay (on Aug. 10), but that would make no sense for me, I would miss my kids’ vacations. It turned out the best for me and everyone involved. I’m in great shape, so let’s do this.”
RDA stopped Lee with an arm-triangle choke in May, bouncing back from defeats to Colby Covington and future champion Kamaru Usman. Edwards, on the other hand, enters the bout riding an impressive seven-fight winning streak that includes victims like Donald Cerrone, Gunnar Nelson, Vicente Luque and Bryan Barberena.
“He’s tough, dangerous, young, but I’ve entered the Octagon against the toughest guys on the planet,” dos Anjos said. “He’s not something I haven’t seen before. It will be no surprise. I’m confident. It was a short, dynamic camp. I’m in great shape and it will certainly be another step towards my dreams.”
After dealing with a long stretch of wrestling-based opponents, the former UFC lightweight champion welcomes the breath of fresh air that was preparing for Edwards.
“Leon also has takedowns, but he likes to mix things up,” dos Anjos said. “He’s not a pure wrestler like Colby, Usman and Kevin Lee, and that’s good. I’ve been training wresting for the last two years, focusing on my takedown defense and working against wrestlers, so to face someone that mixes things up and stays on the feet is good, too.”
And even though Edwards has managed go to 9-1 over his last 10 fights, losing only to current 170-pound champion Usman, dos Anjos says some of his previous opponents made “basic mistakes” that helped Edwards come out victorious.
“I think I’m a different fighter,” he said. “When the opportunity shows up, I’ll finish the fight Saturday. I never go in there to fight five rounds. I always go for the finish. I can go five rounds if I have to, but I’m not working overtime.”
Dos Anjos’ goal is to earn another chance to challenge for the welterweight championship and enter the elite group of fighters who have won belts in multiple weight classes.
A win over a top 12 opponent on a long winning streak might not be enough to grant a title shot compared to the upcoming Covington vs. Robbie Lawler main event and what Jorge Masvidal has done to Darren Till and Ben Askren earlier this year.
That said, RDA just wants to stay busy.
“The division is a bit confusing right now,” dos Anjos said. “That’s why I took this fight. I won’t sit on the couch and wait for the perfect fight. Let’s work. I’m happy that I have the opportunity to work again. A win is another step forward, no matter who you fight.”