Michael Chiesa has a big task ahead of him.
“The Ultimate Fighter” 19 winner has been booked to fight former UFC lightweight champion and now top welterweight contender Rafael dos Anjos on Jan. 25 at UFC on ESPN+ 25 in Raleigh, N.C. The bout arguably is the biggest fight in Chiesa’s career.
“This is the best-case scenario I can possibly be in,” Chiesa told MMA Junkie. “I’m really excited for this matchup. I’ve been ahead of the eight ball in my training, so I’m excited to dive into training on Monday, get this camp going, and get ready for Raleigh.
“And it’s a loaded card – I feel like this is a fun card to be on, like you always want to be on a pay-per-view, those cards get a lot of attention, but these ‘Fight Night’ cards that they try to stacked for obvious reasons, these are the cards I want to be a part of. I’m excited to get done with my fight, go to the back and watch (Cory) Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar. That’s a fight that’s going to be amazing. There are a lot of fun fights on the card. I’m excited to be a part of it.”
UFC on ESPN+ 25 hasn’t been finalized, but it’s looking to be one of the strongest “Fight Night” cards in recent memory. Headlined by Curtis Blaydes vs. Junior Dos Santos, the Raleigh event also includes Josh Emmett vs. Arnold Allen, Sara McMann vs. Lina Lansberg, and several other notable names.
Chiesa (16-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) has yet to get confirmation on the card placement of his bout, but said frankly he doesn’t care – he’s fighting dos Anjos (29-12 MMA, 18-10 UFC), at the end of the day.
“This is one of those things, like I beat ‘RDA,’ and there is no backwards steps from there, it’s a guy ranked higher and that’s it,” Chiesa said. “There are no backwards steps. Once you get in the rankings, you just have to keep stepping forward until you lose to the guy ahead of you, and then you can start considering guys below you. This is a great opportunity to make a big leap in my career, a big leap in my skills, so this is what it’s all about for me. I can’t emphasize it enough.
“I’m finally in this position that I wanted to be in for so long. I get to fight ‘RDA.’ He’s truly top five, so there are these big ramifications, and this is the situation I’ve always wanted to be in. This is what it’s all about, and it couldn’t have happened to me at a better time. (I’m) 31 years old, about to be 32 – I’m in my prime. Everything is clicking, my camp is good, my home life is good, my social life is great – everything is perfect right now, so there is no better time for a fight like this than right now.”
Brazil’s dos Anjos has been a tough test to pass for years. He’s been fighting at an elite level for a long time now, and more often than not, his opponents come up short.
Chiesa is aware of the dangers dos Anjos presents, but he doesn’t see it as his most dangerous fight.
“The most dangerous guy, yes, but not the most dangerous fight,” Chiesa explained. “A dangerous fight is like you lost your last two fights and now you’re fighting Carlos Condit. That, to me, is a dangerous fight because it’s like the do-or-die, the pressure, winning and keeping your job – or losing and maybe get cut. That’s a dangerous fight.
“Is this one of the most dangerous guys? Yes, 100 percent. But like I said, the pressure is off, and when it’s off, that’s when I fight my complete best. This is two wins in a row, fighting a top guy. Not a lot of people are probably counting on me to win. So, like, dude: Let’s just have fun, let’s train as hard as we possibly can, implement a game plan, go out there and fight this guy bell to bell. I believe I’m going to beat him.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
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