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Rafael dos Anjos ready to take advantage of Conor McGregor effect

LOS ANGELES — Rafael dos Anjos was forced to relinquish one of the most lucrative opportunities available to a UFC fighter and that’s just fine with the lightweight champion.

He was scheduled to fight Conor McGregor in March before a fracture in his foot caused him to withdraw from the bout.

The increased purse for a McGregor fight is just one part of the equation. His opponents increase their own profile and tend to make bigger paychecks going forward.

As Nate Diaz found out after stepping in for dos Anjos, a win over McGregor can make potentially make someone not only wealthy, but an overnight superstar.

It would be easy for dos Anjos to dwell on what could have been as he prepares to defend his belt against Eddie Alvarez in the main event of a July 7 card at the MGM Grand that will stream online through UFC Fight Pass.

That’s not his style. Dos Anjos, 31, isn’t even lobbying for another chance at McGregor yet.

“I would make a lot of money (against McGregor)” dos Anjos said during lunch at Boa Steakhouse in West Hollywood. “I like money. Everybody likes money. But I don’t love money. If I don’t fight McGregor, I still have a good life. Coming from where I came from, I was born naked with no teeth. Now I have everything. If the UFC thinks he deserves a shot, I will be there. But it’s not something I want to do just because of the money. Money comes and goes. What comes easy goes easy and that fight would be easy money.

“If it happens, fine. But I’m happy with what I’m making. My intentions are just to keep training hard and defending my title.”

For now, dos Anjos says he is ready to spend at least the next two years clearing out all of the 155-pounders in the lightweight division. McGregor, the 145-pound champion, will rematch Diaz at 170 pounds in August.

Dos Anjos suspects the two will probably cross paths at some point, but he recently told fellow Brazilian and former featherweight champion Jose Aldo there isn’t much hope for him to get a chance to reclaim his 145-pound belt from the man who took it from him in December.

“I told him, ‘Aldo, I don’t want to make you sad, but this fight’s never going to happen. McGregor’s not making 145 anymore,’” dos Anjos recalled. “I think McGregor’s plan is to retire as the featherweight champion. He wants to say nobody took his belt, that the UFC took his belt because he wasn’t fighting at (featherweight anymore.)”

Dos Anjos, who has won five consecutive fights and 10 of his last 11, is proud of the belt he won with a win over Anthony Pettis in March 2015 and defended with a first-round knockout of Donald Cerrone in December.

He has heard other fighters dismiss the importance of belts, particularly guys like Diaz who have said big money fights are more important than titles.

Dos Anjos isn’t buying it.

“When you did everything you can and couldn’t reach the top, you can say, ‘Belts have no value,’” he said. “I think people say that because they didn’t get the title and they can say they don’t care about it because they couldn’t reach it. That’s what I think.”

GSP ‘READY’

The long-rumored comeback of former UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre appears closer than ever.

With rumors circulating he could return for a potential middleweight title fight against newly-crowned champion Michael Bisping, St. Pierre appeared on “The MMA Hour” on Monday to confirm he is working on a deal that could bring him back to the organization.

While he didn’t specifically indicate a fight with Bisping is in the works, St. Pierre conceded he is in the right state of mind to compete for the first time since November 2013 when he walked away from the sport immediately after a split decision win in a title defense against Johny Hendricks.

“I’m ready.” St. Pierre said. “I love my sport and I still feel I’m at my best right now. The clock is running. I’m not getting any younger. I’m in the peak of my career and if there is a shot, there is another goal, another run, I better do it and do it quick, because it is time to do it now.”

St. Pierre, 35, indicated he did a simulated training camp complete with full sparring sessions to determine whether his body would be up to the rigors of preparing for a fight.

He said that everything went well and a comeback appears likely at this point.

St. Pierre left the sport on a 12-fight winning streak and had successfully defended the belt nine consecutive times in his second title reign.

MENDES ADMITS ‘MISTAKE’

UFC featherweight contender Chad Mendes took responsibility for an error after he was flagged for a potential violation by the United States Anti-Doping Agency last week.

“I didn’t do my homework and that was a big mistake,” Mendes posted on Twitter over the weekend. “I own it and I’m going to pay for it.”

The substance Mendes tested positive for likely won’t be revealed until the adjudication of his case, but he faces a potential 2-year ban unless USADA finds extenuating circumstances to lessen the punishment.

Contact reporter Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj

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