Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos’ fight against rival Colby Covington for the interim welterweight title was rescheduled due to Conor McGregor, according to the Brazilian mixed martial artist.
Dos Anjos believes that UFC superstar Conor McGregor’s attack on a busload of fighters leaving a UFC 223 press conference may have been the impetus for the fight being moved to Chicago at UFC 225, instead of at UFC 224 in Rio de Janeiro later next month.
The UFC announced the change to the fight cards just before the UFC 25th anniversary press conference following McGregor’s tantrum that saw a utility dolly thrown through a bus window. Several people were injured, including fighters Michael Chiesa and Ray Borg who were removed from their UFC 223 fights as a result. Dos Anjos believes that if one man could get past the UFC’s security the way McGregor did, then a mob of Brazilian fans could easily be a danger to Covington in Brazil.
“I flew to New York to have that fight announced in Rio, but I think it was [switched] because of that Conor thing,” dos Anjos said during an interview on the MMA Hour. “Like, after that incident with the bus and all of that, I think the UFC was kinda afraid. Colby’s been talking a lot of crap about Brazilians and if something happened there — if the security couldn’t hold one guy, how can they hold a Brazilian crowd [going] crazy because of the stuff that this guy’s been saying?”
Covington has caused major controversy in Brazil, a country he has asserted is a “dump” filled with “filthy animals. Dos Anjos believes that McGregor’s attack on the bus at UFC 223 may have convinced the UFC that there would be a major security issue for Covington if he were to fight in Brazil.
The former lightweight champion said that he only found out about the change of venue a few hours before the press conference and that he was saddened to not be able to fight in Rio de Janeiro.
“I have to say yes, [I was disappointed] a little bit, especially because of the whole story of the thing,” dos Anjos said. “Like, he went there, he went to Brazil, went to Sao Paulo, he beat Demian Maia there, and after he’s talking a lot of crap about the Brazilians. So to have this fight in Rio would be a good story, especially getting the belt there, it would be really cool. But, I think, the one thing, Rio, it’s not Sao Paulo. The crowds in Sao Paulo, it’s different than the crowds in Rio. Rio people are more savage.
“But I think I’m still going to have the crowd on my side,” dos Anjos continued. “It’ll be a good opportunity. I think everything happens for a reason, but I think the location — it’s not going to change the result of the fight. It’ll be even better to beat this guy in his own country, having the American crowd on my side.”
Dos Anjos believes that Covington would have been in legitimate danger if he had ended up staying on the UFC 224 card in Brazil, saying that some fans were extremely upset by his stance on Brazil.
“Some fans, they don’t understand the business,” dos Anjos said. “People get offended, you know? They get offended by, some guy comes to your country and curses everybody and talks bad about the whole crowd. People get [upset], and I get it. I get it. I understand them.”
Covington’s anti-Brazil rhetoric seems to be catching him a lot of ill will, according to dos Anjos.
“Not only the Brazilians. Every time I hang out by my house and do my things, my American fans, they always come to me and they always say, ‘Hey, please shut up that guy. Please shut up that guy. Shut up Colby,’” dos Anjos said. “And that’s what I’m going to do.”
Is Covington’s schtick all just an act? Dos Anjos certainly believes it is, and footage backstage from the UFC 25th anniversary press conference seems to lend itself to that assertion. Covington was caught on camera trying to ignore Kamaru Usman, who was intent on confronting the controversial welterweight. Covington’s incident in Sydney with former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, which resulted in Covington calling the police after being attacked with a boomerang, also runs in the opposite direction of his gangster persona.
“The funny thing is that, backstage, he just [stayed looking at] his phone,” dos Anjos said. “He wasn’t even looking around. That’s how he is. He’s that guy that, when he’s in front of the cameras, he changes. He becomes a different person. But backstage, he just was with his sunglasses, looking at his phone, and not even looking around. So what kind of gangster is that? Gangster that when things got rough, he called police? What kind of people — I don’t get it. So fake.”