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Dos Anjos details scary weight cuts that fueled move to welterweight

Rafael dos Anjos describes scary weight cuts in 2016

Earlier this year, former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos announced his intention to move up to the welterweight division.

After hearing him describe recent cuts to 155 pounds, it’s easy to understand why.

Dos Anjos (25-9) entered 2016 on top of the lightweight division and at one point was scheduled to face the sport’s biggest star, Conor McGregor, at UFC 196. After an injury derailed that matchup, dos Anjos went on to lose the UFC title via first-round knockout to Eddie Alvarez in July and drop a five-round unanimous decision to Tony Ferguson four months later.

The 32-year-old is looking forward to turning things around at 170 pounds this year and is looking to debut in his new weight class sometime in April or May.

Recently, dos Anjos went into greater detail regarding the jump in weight, his recent hardships making 155 pounds and more.

Can you describe the main reasons behind your decision to move to welterweight?

I think between 2014 and 2015, I made weight five times in 11 months. During that time, I felt my body change. It was able to hold on to more weight. And anybody who makes weight knows that it gets harder and harder to make weight once you’ve done it that many times. I just noticed my body needed more time between fights and wasn’t making the weight as easy.

You’ve said the weight cut prior to losing your title via first-round TKO to Alvarez was the worst of your career. Can you walk us through that?

Everything was on plan. We had 3 pounds to lose the morning of the weigh-in. The night before, we had lost 8 or 9 pounds during training. I jumped in the [Epsom salt] bath for 15 minutes, and when I stood up, I felt dizzy. I sat down again on the edge of the bath and felt OK, started to stand up again, and I just fell backward. My head was two inches from the faucet. I could have died that day.

My coaches took me out of the bath and placed me on the bed. I came back for a couple seconds and passed out again. I came back and passed out a third time. I was almost out for three minutes, they said. At one point, they said, ‘Let’s call 911 and cancel the fight.’ I woke up and asked them what was going on. And after all that, I still didn’t know if I had made the weight. So I had to check my weight, but I couldn’t stand up. I lied down with a cold towel on my head. It took me about 40 minutes to get up. I checked my weight, and it said 155. If I hadn’t been on weight, there’s no way I could do any more. I couldn’t do it. On the walk to the weigh-ins, I was just feeling miserable.

How much did all of this affect your performance in the fight?

I have a strong mind, so I was feeling ready to go. One strange thing, though, my training partners noticed during warm-ups that I wasn’t sweating as much as usual. My body kind of shut down, and I wasn’t sweating. When I got hit in the fight, it wasn’t like — I’ve gotten hit harder than that before — but I just lost my legs. It was weird. I want to give credit to Alvarez, but for sure, the weight cut affected me a little bit.

After how that weight cut went, why do it again? Why not immediately move to welterweight after losing the title, rather than take on Ferguson at 155 pounds?

The problem was that I started thinking, “I just passed out because I stood up too fast. Next time, I will make sure I don’t stand up fast.” Then we took care of everything, and still, I almost passed out. It was hard for me. I just thought I had made a mistake against Alvarez and I would be able to avoid making that mistake again, but I think cutting to 155 is just too stressful. I think I have the passion to do what I do, and right now, I’m 200 pounds. Once I get back in shape, I’ll be 180, and those last 10 pounds will be easy.

Are you confident you’re finished fighting at lightweight, or is there a chance you could return to that weight class?

I can fight there again, but for how much money I’m making right now, it’s not worth it. I’m killing myself to make 155, and [without the championship] I’m not making much money. I would make 155 pounds for a super fight or something, but for what I’m making today? No, it’s not worth making 155.

It’s not your style to call out an opponent, but what are you expecting for your first fight at 170 pounds?

I’m the former lightweight champion. I want to fight one of the top guys. I don’t want to fight a guy who isn’t ranked. I don’t have anybody in mind, but I want a tough guy. That’s what matters to me.