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5 things you didn't know about former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos
Rafael dos Anjos
Anwesha Nag

Rafael dos Anjos made a successful return to his former division with a split decision win over Paul Felder.

In his first outing as a lightweight since 2016, former champion Rafael dos Anjos went up against #7 ranked Paul Felder at UFC Vegas 14. Scores of 50-45 from two judges made him the winner of the bout.

However, Paul Felder deserves full credit for not only taking up a fight at less than a week's notice, but to successfully make weight and put up a great fight to RDA.

Rafael dos Anjos was originally scheduled to face Islam Makhachev in the main event on Saturday night. But the latter had to pull out of the fight due to health reasons. Paul Felder, who was supposed to be present at UFC Apex on that night as a color commentator for the event, agreed to step in and save the day.

Felder's decision was met with applause from the MMA world, for agreeing to take a fight against a former champion on such short notice. Rafael dos Anjos himself lauded Felder for the call.

Post-fight, Rafael dos Anjos called out Conor McGregor for a fight. 'The Notorious' readily accepted the challenge, as expected, but said that he wants to deal with Dustin Poirier first, whom he is set to meet on January 23.

Conor McGregor and Rafael dos Anjos were once booked to fight before in 2016, but the bout got cancelled. McGregor shared pictures from the face-off of that title bout.

On the occasion of the former lightweight champion's return to his old division, here are five things about Rafael dos Anjos that you might not have known.


#5 Rafael dos Anjos skipped school to learn MMA

Rafael dos Anjos grew up in Fonseca district in Niteroi, Brazil. His first introduction to mixed martial arts was through his cousin Rodrigo Souza, who used to train capoeira at Henrique Lage School. But it was fighting on the streets that really got him into the sport.

A 8-9 year-old Rafael dos Anjos would see neighborhood kids grapple on the streets, and sometimes he would join in. Eventually, he stopped fighting in the streets ands started training jiu-jitsu in the gym.

RDA fell in love with MMA so much, that he started skipping school to make time for training sessions, even though the gym was far away from his house. His mother was a very busy woman, working multiple jobs to run the house. She did not even notice that her son now had a slightly different schedule than before.

"I think I spent six months without going to school for classes. I walked straight by it to go train jiu-jitsu. When I had money I took the bus, or would ride a bike or even walk to the gym. It was far away from my house, like eight miles or something. I always found a way to get there. My mother was very busy, she worked a lot, so she wouldn’t notice it. I skipped class one day to train, went normally the other, and then would skip two or three days of school. My mother was very busy. She had other problems to deal with, so she didn’t even notice it." (via MMA Fighting)

#4 Rafael dos Anjos was stuck in Germany for many months

Rafael dos Anjos
Rafael dos Anjos

Right after receiving his first degree black belt, Rafael dos Anjos took a huge risk and went all the way to Germany for the European Championship. It sounded like a great opportunity to a young up-and-coming dos Anjos, but the reality was quite different.

Rafael dos Anjos revealed in later interviews (via MMA Fighting) that he had only 300 Euros in his pocket, which was barely enough for a week in Europe. But he had to stay for much longer. So he had to work and earn money alongside participating in the Championship.

Having to work for survival cost him time and energy for his training.

"I had just got my black belt and was completely broke. It was tough. I had to make some money to survive. I was going to compete at the European Championship and ended up staying there for six months. I started teaching jiu-jitsu, but didn’t have any time to train myself."

On top of that, the weather and difference of language made things worse. For someone born and brought up in Brazil, Germany can feel extremely cold. Moreover, RDA did not even know English properly, let alone speak German. He had to communicate with signs and gestures.

After six months in such adverse conditions, Rafael dos Anjos moved back to Brazil and shifted to Rio de Janeiro, where he started training MMA at Gracie Barra for the first time.

#3 Rafael dos Anjos has a metallic jaw

Rafael dos Anjos has a metallic jaw
Rafael dos Anjos has a metallic jaw

While it can be said about most MMA fighters that they are "made of steel" because of how strong and hardy they are, but in case of Rafael dos Anjos, it is somewhat true.

During his 2010 bout against Clay Guida, Rafael dos Anjos broke his jaw in the very first minute of the fight. He survived for three more rounds in the fight, but the injury he sustained eventually led to his defeat. In the third round, Rafael dos Anjos was forced to tap out and submit to Clay Guida, as the latter pressed a forearm against his already broken jaw.

Dos Anjos has screws and titanium plates installed in his jaw ever since, and the UFC lightweight has claimed on multiple occasions that the metal has given him an 'unfair advantage' over other opponents.

In an interview with MMA Junkie ahead of his 2015 bout against Donald Cerrone, Rafael dos Anjos said that two of his opponents since Clay Guida have broken their hands trying to punch his chin area because of the metal - Gleison Tibau and Anthony Njokuani. RDA won both the fights via decision.

"That break happened when we were openly trading during the first minute of our fight. He broke my mandible in two parts, but I kept on fighting. Nowadays, I have 20 screws and four titanium plates. Since then I broke two hands with my chin: (Gleison) Tibau’s and (Anthony) Njokuani’s."

However, despite RDA's claims, it is unlikely that he has metal pieces in his face big enough for someone to break their hands. The screws and plates are medical implants which measure in millimeters - so it is safe to assume that dos Anjos' claims are more of a comforting lie.

#2 Rafael dos Anjos is the second fighter to spend 7 hours in the UFC Octagon

Rafael dos Anjos faced Paul Felder at UFC Vegas 14
Rafael dos Anjos faced Paul Felder at UFC Vegas 14

With the fight against Paul Felder, Rafael dos Anjos became only the second fighter in UFC history to spend more than 7 hours inside the Octagon. Ahead of him is another former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar.

It would be an understatement to say 2020 has not been a year for good things to happen. However, Rafael dos Anjos had more reasons to rejoice. Not only did he make a successful return to lightweight, but this year he also achieved another milestone, quite rare even for the greatest MMA grapplers.

In August, RDA shared a post on his Instagram account, announcing that he had been awarded the 4th degree on his black belt courtesy of his coach, Philipe "Furao" Della Monica.

Furao is the chief instructor at Gracie Barra HQ in Irvine, California, where RDA has been training since he moved to the United States from Brazil. In the post, he included an older photo of him with a purple belt. The photograph is likely to be dated somewhere around 2003, when RDA was yet to receive his brown and subsequent black belt.

#1 Rafael dos Anjos' wife said his name wrong when they first met

Rafael dos Anjos with his wife Christiane and kids
Rafael dos Anjos with his wife Christiane and kids

The Octagon is not only where Rafael dos Anjos made his career, but it is also where he met his wife, Christiane Gurgel.

Gurgel was working at XFC Brazil as a ring-girl and a producer when RDA took part in the tournament. He competed against Thiago Meller in the semi-final. Hours before the fight, Gurgel was entrusted with the responsibility of calling out fighters' names and informing them about lodging details.

There were two fighters with 'dos' in their name - the other one was former UFC Heavyweight champ, Junior dos Santos. This was one of dos Santos' last outings before he went over to UFC.

Confused by the two names, Gurgel called out 'Rafael dos Santos' instead of 'Rafael dos Anjos', which led to their first interaction. After the fight was over, in which dos Anjos won, he came around and asked Gurgel for her phone number.

Gurgel later revealed in interviews that it was 'love at first sight' for her.

Edited by James Sullivan

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