Initially scheduled for UFC 254 on Oct. 24, the lightweight fight between Rafael dos Anjos and Islam Makhachev had to be postponed due to Brazilian testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks before traveling to Abu Dhabi.
Dos Anjos spent his camp for the postponed bout at Nova Uniao, where he wowed the likes of former UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and head trainer Andre Pederneiras.
"Unfortunately he was caught by COVID-19. He was in such a great shape. But I can guarantee that as soon as he recovers, the fans will see the best Rafael dos Anjos ever,” Aldo told Sherdog.com backstage at a launch event for Wanderlei Silva’s biography last week.
Aldo revealed that he also participated in the camp with dos Anjos and already has his next opponent decided.
"Unfortunately the UFC did not authorize me to release the name, but we will fight in November,” Aldo said. “By December 2021, I want to be the owner of bantamweight belt.”
Pederneiras also came away impressed by dos Anjos’ conditioning.
"He is such a tough kid, complete everywhere. Actually, it was a great exchange. I think we were able to help him a lot due to the amazing amount of lightweight sparring partners we have here and also to improve his takedown defense in the cage. For what I saw here, I believe he is returning to lightweight to fight for the title,” Pederneiras said.
At the moment, it is unclear if dos Anjos vs. Makhachev will be rescheduled or if the former lightweight king will receive a new opponent.
"I talked to his manager Giovani last week. UFC is deciding if they will postpone the fight or change the opponent. It also depends on Makachev´s team, so we just have to wait,” Pederneiras said. “As I said to Rafael, his main concern must be recover from COVID and be ready.”
Dos Anjos last competed at UFC Fight Night 166 on Jan. 25, where he dropped a unanimous verdict to Michael Chiesa at welterweight. While training in Rio de Janeiro in preparation for his lightweight return, RDA utilized the same nutritionist who helped Aldo make the cut to bantamweight.
The only Brazilian lightweight champion in UFC history, dos Anjos has lost four of his last five promotional appearances. A training partner of current 155-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev is currently on a six-bout winning streak in UFC competition.