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The Ultimate Fighting Championship’s upcoming six-fight main card pay-per-view has taken a hit.
Rafael dos Anjos posted on Twitter on Thursday night that he has contracted COVID-19 and can no longer compete at UFC 254. Dos Anjos was set to face Islam Makhachev on the main card, which is set to go down on Oct. 24 on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It is unclear if the promotion will seek a replacement or if Makhachev will be removed from the event altogether.
Dos Anjos made a change in camps from his own RDA Academy and splitting time with Evolve MMA to go down to Nova Uniao and train with Andre Pederneiras and Jose Aldo. The former lightweight king has lost four of five bouts, with a fourth-round submission triumph over Kevin Lee the lone bright spot dating back nearly three years. Dos Anjos moved up to welterweight after a loss to Tony Ferguson in 2016, and he rattled off three wins over Robbie Lawler, Neil Magny and Tarec Saffiedine to prove he belonged in the division. Since the Lawler win, dos Anjos has gone on the aforementioned four of five losing stretch, prompting the return back to 155 pounds.
Makhachev is looking to keep it rolling after six straight wins at lightweight. The Russian’s lone career blemish a knockout at the hands of Adriano Martins, Makhachev has not looked back by recording victories over names like Davi Ramos, Nik Lentz and Gleison Tibau. Dos Anjos was to be Makhachev’s first ranked opponent, as the Brazilian is currently Sherdog’s #9 ranked welterweight. Makhachev’s own win streak has placed him on the bubble of the top 15 at lightweight.
On his Twitter, dos Anjos wrote:
Life is like those things that we don’t understand now, but that will be revealed in the future. I left the comfort zone in the United States to come to Rio de Janeiro and restart my career. The stay was the best possible, feeling the warmth of my wonderful city, breathing the smell that only the ocean here has, and sharing the joy of the priceless smiles of my people even hidden behind the masks.
“Being able to be taken care of by the health professionals who are the best in the world and who I trust with my eyes closed, experiencing the training with the best coaches and other professionals who struggle every day to achieve their dreams. I came to rescue my dream of becoming a champion again, and that goal was achieved. Sharing my experiences with the Nova Uniao team and learning many details to improve my game and close the gaps in the future, none of this was in vain.
“Unfortunately I will not be able to compete on the 24th. COVID-19 caught me big time and the doctors cut me out. But soon I will be back victorious inside the Octagon! Nothing can take away the blessing that is upon us. God will provide.”
UFC 254 will roll on at the Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 24, where the lightweight title unification battle of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje sits atop the lineup. The co-main event at middleweight, Robert Whittaker takes on Jared Cannonier for a potential title shot, and Alexander Volkov locks horns with Walt Harris at heavyweight on the main card as well.