There can’t be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts, who hasn’t heard of Rafael Dos Anjos, one of the most feared among the current crop of fighters. Born and raised up in Brazil, he was always a difficult kid, getting in fights in the schools and on the streets. Somehow, the discipline in his life was maintained to some degree when he got himself enrolled in the martial arts class, learning Jiu Jutsu. He championed several Jiu Jutsu competitions and eventually earned Black Belt, an honour restricted to very few. He participated in MMA competitions regionally with the tournaments in Brazil, and performed well enough to expect a call from UFC, the ultimate destination for all the MMA artists in the world, and sure enough, he got his first chance at UFC 91 in 2008. Losing his first two fights made him nervous about his future with UFC but he bounced back in September 2009 in the third fight of his career with a victory and he hasn’t looked back ever since. He devised a way to tackle any opponent with sincerity and ended up with titles such as UFC Lightweight Championship, Fight of the Night, Submission of the Night and Performance of the Night.
Childhood & Early Life
Rafael Dos Anjos was born in the national capital of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, on 26th October 1984 to lower middle class parents. He was brought up in the Niteroi locality, which wasn’t a perfect place, and exposed Rafael to bullying, by other kids. But he proved that he wasn’t someone to mess with and gave the bullies back the taste of their own medicine. He was constantly getting in fights in schools and the streets of Rio, which led his parents to devise another way to deal with their son’s violent streaks.
He got enrolled into Jiu Jitsu classes, a Japanese martial art form. It was Rafael’s own decision mostly as he had been a fan of Rickson Gracie, who he saw in one of the very first televised MMA fights. Rafael was 13 years old then and immediately fell in love with MMA, and started dreaming about being on television in an MMA fight. Roberto Barradas was a popular teacher in his locality and Rafael became his apprentice. For the next 3 years, Rafael stayed with him and learned the art of Jiu Jutsu.
Anjos family changed cities once Rafael received his blue belt and shifted to Minas Gerais and that turned out to be the biggest turning point in his life. He met Aldo Januario in the academy of Gracie-Barra and became Aldo’s student. From there, Rafael went on to win National Championship in the junior tournament for Jiu Jutsu and once he earned the Purple Belt, he targeted several other tournaments and championships, where he emerged the winner more often than not.
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Early Career With BJJ/MMA
His first tryst with Mixed Martial Arts happened in the year 2004, in a fight against Rafael Abu at a local MMA show. Rafael Dos Anjos was 19 years of age then and in the very first match of his career, he tasted a bitter defeat, by split decision. Although it was his debut match, and losing the first match of his career wasn’t really a depressing feat, but the MMA bug bit him hard and it was clear, that until Rafael makes himself a big thing in the MMA circuit, he won’t rest. That was the impact the first loss had on his psyche.
Rafael started training harder and participated in several MMA and Jiu Jitsu events along with the Submission wrestling and achieved further honours in the form of Brazilian National Championships in BJJ and eventually in 2005, he received a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, the ultimate goal of every practitioner of the martial art. He went international the next year with events in Europe where he trained young students and fought in different BJJ tournaments.
The humongous success he received in BJJ didn’t interfere with his dreams of making it big in the MMA circuit and he soon relocated to Rio, where he started training with Gracie Fusion, a popular MMA team. This partnership proved to be fruitful for Rafael and he ended up winning several local and national tournaments for his team. His desires grew further and UFC got in touch with Rafael in 2008, when he landed in the USA to become a part of the most lucrative and popular MMA event in the world, the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
In his first match against Jeremy Stephens at UFC 19, Rafael was knocked out by his opponent in the third round of the match. His second fight was a lot more intense and Rafael gave a fierce competition to his opponent Tyson Griffin, and they both received the honour ‘Fight of the Night’ by the end of the evening, but Rafael had to wait for his first UFC victory. His third UFC match turned the tables around, and Rafael defeated Rob Emerson by anonymous decision in September 2009.
This win provided him with enough confidence to embark on a winning streak, as if he had found out the recipe for success, and Rafael ended up scoring two straight wins after that. A roadblock came in form of a fight against Clay Guida in August 2010, where Rafael was defeated and in the next few fights Rafael faced many famous fighters and secured wins against Kyle Bradley, Kamal Shalorus, George Satiropoulus , but faced defeats at the hands of Gleison Tibau and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
After all loses and victories, there was one thing everyone agreed with, that Rafael was slowly improving his technique and becoming a force to reckon with. In August 2014, his fight against Benson Henderson earned him very first ‘Performance of the Night’ bonus award. In the fight, he won by knocking out Benson in the first round itself, and became one of the very few fighters to have defeated Benson as cleanly.
In the spring of 2015, Rafael Dos Anjos had his title shot against Anthony Pettis for the UFC Lightweight Championship, and Rafael won the fight by unanimous decision. This title victory also earned him a ‘Performance of the Night’ honour. In his first title defence match in December 2015, he faced Donald Cerrone and knocked out his opponent in less than 66 seconds in the very first round. This was the fastest victory anyone had in any title match in the history of UFC. This exhibition of fierceness and raw talent earned him another ‘Performance of the Night’ honour.
In July 2016, however, he lost the title in a match against Eddie Alvarez, who knocked Rafael out in the first round. It was very surprising as Rafael was the ultimate favourite in the fight. Later examinations stated that he was not hundred percent fit during the fight due to the drastic weight cuts that he had to go through. In his later matches, he lost a fight against Tony Ferguson and secured a win against Tarec Saffiedine.
Rafael Dos Anjos is a married man and has two sons from two different marriages.