Rafael dos Anjos can finally breathe again after surgery on his nose to open his airway
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Rafael dos Anjos can finally breathe again after surgery on his nose to open his airway

LAS VEGAS – Rafael Dos Anjos had trouble sleeping. Simply breathing while he went about his business during the day was a chore.

He underwent surgery in March to repair a deviated nasal septum. He also had a chronic sinus problem and his allergies bothered him. His doctor knew he was a professional athlete, but when he started working on Dos Anjos’ nose, he couldn’t believe it.

“My doctor said to me, ‘How can you fight? It was impossible for you to breathe.” There were also fractures in his nose that dos Anjos didn’t know about, and they were calcified.

It was a mess, in general, and simply amazing that he was able to compete in one of the toughest sports at the level he was capable of.

Former lightweight champion Dos Anjos has never been able to get the solid eight hours of sleep needed for everyone but especially for an athlete who pushes his body to the limits in the midst of a grueling training camp. He was awake and got out of bed a lot during the night and was unable to get the quality of sleep athletes need.

However, he was still performing in the UFC. He has gone 3-1 in his last four fights in the UFC with wins over Paul Fielder, Renato Moicano and Brian Barbarina.

“There was so much he had to clean up that he was shocked I could fight at all,” said dos Anjos. “After I had the surgery, everything improved a lot. My sleep levels were much better. I couldn’t sleep well for many years.

“My problem with sleeping previously was that I was breathing a lot through my mouth because my nose was blocked. What happened was that I got dry mouth. I would wake up and have to drink water to get relief from it. Then I would start getting up and going to the bathroom. I was wasting my nights with dry mouth.” And going to the bathroom and not sleeping properly. I’ve done that for two years.”

He said he feels energized and much younger than 38. In Luque, he’s up against a talented, motivated opponent who’s coming off a two-game losing streak and is desperate to turn things around.

He’s dangerous, but feel the way he does, Dos Anjos knows he’s going to be dangerous, too.

ORLANDO, FL - DECEMBER 3: Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil fights back after defeating Bryan Barberena in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at the Amway Center on December 3, 2022 in Orlando, Florida.  (Photo by Jeff Butari/Zuffa LLC)

Rafael dos Anjos is happy after he underwent surgery to repair his nose injuries so he could breathe normally again. (Jeff Butari/Getty Images)

He is still hoping to get a chance to fight for the welterweight title. He lost a championship decision to Leon Edwards in 2019 before Edwards won the belt by knocking down Kamaru Usman with a late kick to the head.

He’s ranked 9th at lightweight, and Locky is 10th at welterweight, so it’s going to be a long, hard road to the top of the rankings. Edwards is likely to defend against second seed Colby Covington, and the division is packed with elite talent.

Dos Anjos has proven himself to be an elite player in the past, and he said he’s optimistic he’ll be able to fight at a much higher level than he does now.

“I feel so much better, and even the little things, the pain you feel in training camp, it’s so much better,” Dos Anjos said. “My recovery is so much better. It’s really amazing what this surgery has done for me. It’s made me feel so much better and it’s going to be really noticeable, I think.”

Luque is a good challenge for him, especially given his desperation. Dos Anjos has been in this situation in the past, trying to turn things around after losing multiple fights in a row, and he understands how Luque might approach the match.

He was interested in Luque’s talents, but he was as confident as ever.

“From my point of view, I’ve done everything before and I’m an ex-champion,” he said. “I’ve been training really well. So I’m not too worried about what he’s going to do. I’m worried about myself and what I need to do. I’ve got five rounds and I’ve been through it a lot of times. So I know I’m ready for this and to put in an excellent fight.”

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