Less than two months out from his headlining spot at UFC 197, lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos last week returned to Brazil in order to promote the March 5 main event against featherweight ace Conor McGregor.
Speaking to Sherdog.com in his hometown of Niteroi’s beautiful City Park, dos Anjos revealed that participating in a press conference with the trash-talking Irishman was less than enjoyable.
“Of course, being in a press conference is part of our job,” dos Anjos said, “but it’s not a good experience to sit for more than an hour listening to a joker perform his routine. That wasn’t funny to me.”
Much has been made of the UFC’s decision to allow McGregor -- who only recently captured the company’s 145-pound belt -- to move up the scale in search of a second title. Dos Anjos acknowledged that, although McGregor undoubtedly receives preferential treatment in comparison to some other UFC champions, it is not without a reason.
“Of course there’s a difference, just because of how much Conor brings to the company. He’s a great salesman, and I know I don’t sell as well as he does,” admitted dos Anjos. “He’s European, Irish, and that’s the difference. Look at how many champions we’ve made in Brazil and how many they’ve had in Ireland.
“McGregor is a smart guy. He’s aware that he has two tough challengers in his division: Jose Aldo, who I think deserved an immediate rematch, and Frankie Edgar. So, he decided to come up to lightweight. If he wins, he’ll be ‘the man.’ If he loses, he’ll keep being the featherweight champion. So, he’ll do another fight, make more money, lose and keep being the champion. He’s definitely a smart guy.”
Asked to compare McGregor to other 155-pound challengers, dos Anjos said that the Irishman scares him less than former opponents like Donald Cerrone and Benson Henderson.
“I think both Cerrone and Henderson are better fighters than McGregor, but a fight is a fight and I respect all my opponents in the same manner,” dos Anjos said. “I’ll train hard as always, and when I step into the Octagon, I’ll be even better than last time. One thing is for sure: When I put my hands on him, he will have nightmares about the lightweight division for a long time.”
Dos Anjos would not comment specifically on his game plan but offered assurances that he is prepared to overwhelm McGregor in every facet of the game.
“I don’t only have one strategy. I fight standup. I fight on the ground,” he commented. “What will make the difference is the volume of my game: takedowns, standup, kicking and punching. Wherever the fight goes, it will be bad and I will hurt him.”
The lightweight champion also backed up comments made by Kings MMA training partner and UFC heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum, who stated that McGregor asked to train at their gym ahead of his December bout with Aldo but was denied by trainer Rafael Cordeiro.
“I remember when people started talking about it at the gym,” recalled dos Anjos. “I said he should come in on a Friday, our sparring day, but tell him to be aware that he might get hurt and have to cancel the fight.”
In case his message was unclear, dos Anjos reiterated that he will never accept an invitation to train with McGregor, even after their impending bout.
“I’ll never be his friend. I don’t want to be his friend. Actually, he is my No. 1 enemy.”