The timing for UFC 225’s interim welterweight title fight between Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington was always a little puzzling.
Dos Anjos vs. Covington takes place in Chicago on June 9.
The UFC’s reigning welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley, has publicly stated that he is targeting a return from shoulder surgery in either July or August, not long after UFC 225. Prior to his injury layoff, Woodley was the most active champion on the promotion’s roster, competing in four title fights over the course of a year, with his most recent outing being a successful title defense over Demian Maia in July 2017.
So why, then, is an interim title being introduced immediately before Woodley’s expected return?
Dos Anjos said it was simply a matter of timing — and Woodley’s decision to delay shoulder surgery until December.
“Here’s the thing: I was ready to fight Woodley,” dos Anjos said Monday on The MMA Hour. “After I beat (Robbie) Lawler (last December), I thought that Woodley would be the next guy.
“Long story short, after the Demian Maia fight, after Woodley fought Demian, he knew he hurt his shoulder. He should get surgery right away. He took six months to get surgery, right? And then he wants to fight (Michael) Bisping, and then he wants to fight (Nate) Diaz, and then GSP, then Conor (McGregor). None of these fights happened, so he knew the next guy in line was me. So I was told that he would be ready to fight in November, December. I said no, I can’t wait that long.
“I told Sean Shelby I can’t wait that long. My last fight was December 2017. I can’t wait until December 2018. It’s one year. I have a family, I have things to do.”
Dos Anjos said the UFC ultimately offered him the interim title fight against Covington and he accepted. He said he would not have done so unless the interim title was on the line.
Still, dos Anjos isn’t sure why Woodley delayed shoulder surgery for so long, especially while publicly angling for other potential fights, such as one against Nate Diaz.
“I don’t know, to be honest with you,” dos Anjos. “I don’t think it’s not to fight me. He wants to fight somebody else. He wants to fight a big name. That’s what it looks like, because I was told that he said, ‘Okay, I’ll be ready to fight in June with GSP.’ No, no, Tyron, you’re going to fight RDA. ‘No, no. RDA, only in November.’ That’s it, man. I can’t wait. I have a life. I have bills to pay, like anybody, and I can’t just wait for one guy. Man, he got hurt with Maia. He should get surgery the next day. For me, as a fighter, I don’t want lose six months. Even when he had an injury, he still wanted to fight Nate Diaz. I don’t get it. If you need surgery, and you’re willing to take a fight with somebody?
“So I think he’s just trying to get a bigger fight, a bigger name.”
Instead, dos Anjos will get his chance to become a two-division champion against Covington at UFC 225.
The lead-up to the contest will almost certainly be a contentious one, as Covington’s anti-Brazil rhetoric reared its ugly head again at the UFC’s recent 25th anniversary press conference. But while dos Anjos vowed to give Covington “what he deserves” at UFC 225, he’s not worried about what the American will say in the build-up to the fight.
“Man, I’m born and raised in Brazil in Rio, and I knew a lot of bullies in school,” dos Anjos said. “I never have a problem with that. I know he’s going to say a lot, but it’s part of his thing, part of the promotion. I’m going to let him talk and promote the fight. Then, fight night, I’m going to go there and do my job.
“I do this for myself, for my family, for my fans around the world. I’m not an emotional fighter. I just go there, I’m cold-blooded, and I do my thing.”
Dos Anjos indicated Monday that he won’t be surprised if the Chicago crowd is on his side at UFC 225, given how far Covington has taken his trash talk with his anti-Brazil narrative or his shots at the physical appearances of others, whether it’s Mike Perry’s ex-girlfriend or UFC title contender Tecia Torres.
Dos Anjos promised that although he believes Covington went overboard with many of his comments, all would get rectified at UFC 225.
“He’s been crossing the line all the time,” dos Anjos said.
“And he’s going to learn down the road.”