Almost five years after their initial booking was scrapped, Rafael dos Anjos still sees a matchup with Conor McGregor in the pipeline.
Dos Anjos (31-13 MMA, 19-11 UFC), who was lightweight champion at the time, was booked to face McGregor in the main event of UFC 196, but a broken foot forced him out of the bout. McGregor faced Nate Diaz instead and the MMA world was flipped upside down when Diaz submitted McGregor at the MGM Grand Garden.
Both men would go down completely different paths, with McGregor (22-5 MMA, 10-3 UFC) eventually becoming a two-weight world champ and dos Anjos finding success in his move up to 170 pounds by challenging for the interim title.
But, after some ups and downs at welterweight, dos Anjos decided to return to his original weight class and picked up a big win over Paul Felder at UFC Fight Night 182 in November to reposition himself at the sharp end of the lightweight rankings. McGregor, on the other hand, is coming off a second-round stoppage loss to Dustin Poirier at UFC 257.
Now, five years on from their original booking, dos Anjos and McGregor are separated by just one spot in the UFC’s lightweight rankings and dos Anjos is confident that he would find similar success to Poirier if the fight with McGregor ever comes to fruition.
“I believe when I fought Conor he was in the best moment of his career, and I was in the best moment of my career,” dos Anjos told MMA Junkie. “I had the belt at the time, and I was feeling pretty confident at that time, and I was in great shape. I think I’m a very bad matchup for Conor. Especially for my style, my kicks and southpaw stance, my grappling skills, my wrestling skills. But that’s something that passed already. With the results of his last fights, I think our paths can cross again, but there’s so many options right now in that division.”
That’s not to say that dos Anjos is holding out in hopes of a matchup with “The Notorious.” The 36-year-old Brazilian is happy to face just about any of the division’s top contenders as he looks to make one more title run before his career is over.
“I think anybody ahead of me in the rankings would be a good fight,” dos Anjos said. “I see Gaethje, he mentioned my name, Oliveira, all these guys, Chandler, even Tony (Ferguson). He’s coming off two losses, but he’s ahead of me in the rankings and could be a good (fight). Tony was a guy that beat me on the follow-up fight when I lost my title. It could be a good way for me to build up, to re-write my history again, and to have that rematch would be cool too.
“So there’s so many options, but I’m pretty much open to fight all these guys. Gaethje, Oliveira, Tony, Chandler, all these guys (and) Conor.”