After six years, 15 fights with the promotion and six victories in his past seven fights, Rafael dos Anjos is finally getting his long-awaited wish: the chance to headline a UFC event.
Ever since the 29-year-old Brazilian opened his UFC career with a pair of defeats in 2008, dos Anjos has become one of the organization’s most consistent winners. Yet, his name has never been on top of the marquee.
Now, with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 49 headliner against former champion Benson Henderson, dos Anjos finally gets a main-event slot.
“It’s my first time in the headliner,” he told MMAjunkie. “I’m very happy with this opportunity given to me by the UFC. I already had 15 fights in the UFC, since 2008, and this is my first time headlining. I’ve been working hard for years, and now thankfully I have my opportunity. I’m giving my best so that I may headline other events in the future.”
UFC Fight Night 49 takes place at BOK Center in Tulsa, and dos Anjos (21-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) and Henderson (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) meet in the FOX Sports 1-televised headliner.
The stakes are high for dos Anjos. Starting in 2012, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and muay Thai specialist posted five consecutive wins, which included a signature victory over perennial contender Donald Cerrone. He subsequently suffered a decision loss to fellow title hopeful Khabib Nurmagomedov in April, but just six weeks later, he earned a second-round TKO win over Jason High at UFC Fight Night 42 to set up the Henderson fight.
“It was a loss, but I don’t think I dropped too far in the rankings,” said dos Anjos, who’s ranked No. 9 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, said about the Nurmagomedov defeat. “No one knows what God has in store. I may have lost that fight, but I’ll keep striving to climb to the top of my weight class.”