Rafael dos Anjos, Conor McGregor

The galactic forces that knocked Rafael dos Anjos out of a superfight with Conor McGregor over 4 years in the past was a miniature huge bang that not directly spawned an iconic cross-promotional boxing match, a BMF UFC title and essentially the most risky rivalry in MMA historical past.

Placed on the tinfoil hats, women and gents. It’s time to go deep-diving right into a dystopian world of what-ifs.

What if dos Anjos by no means injured his foot and made the stroll to combat McGregor? The trickle-down impact from that bout’s mere existence would carry any keen passenger on a unending journey, deep right into a rabbit gap of summary phrases like destiny and future.

Take the title combat between welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and high contender Jorge Masvidal in the principle occasion of UFC 251 for instance. That combat won’t have even existed if dos Anjos by no means suffered the ill-fated harm.

Make no mistake, Masvidal is a self-made man—a grasp of violence and a charismatic, but terrifying, particular person contained in the cage. The street to the three-piece destroyer adorned in Ric Aptitude robes was a dilapidated one filled with avenue fights and years of being snubbed on the skilled stage. It wasn’t till his knee bumped into Ben Askren’s chin to kind one of the best knockout pairing since “When Harry Met Sally” that individuals actually began to take discover of his celebrity potential.

That burgeoning superstardom morphed into actuality after he was thrown on a pay-per-view card with Nate Diaz as his dance accomplice and a BAMF title on the road.

Nevertheless, the identical might be stated for Diaz, who was shining like Leroy Inexperienced after getting the rub from McGregor of their impromptu feud again in 2016. It was solely mere happenstance that bout ever got here collectively within the first place.

The true artwork of matchmaking is accepting the truth that generally dumb luck is concerned. Diaz simply occurred to be accessible on the excellent time to fill in for the injured dos Anjos. Not solely did he commandeer a major chunk of the highlight within the build-up for the combat, however he ultimately went on to foil the huge McGregor hype practice.

Inside an prompt, the person UFC President Dana White as soon as known as a non-needle mover was one of many largest stars within the firm.

That chance may need by no means arrived with out dos Anjos happening the shelf. Diaz was 2-Three in his final 5 fights on the time and nearer to the top of his profession than the start. Why would his path ever cross with McGregor’s?

You may relaxation assured the UFC is glad it did.

That feud spawned not one, however two pay-per-view stars for the corporate with Diaz and, ultimately, Masvidal. Destiny made a method for 2 perceived journeymen to redefine their total MMA existence within the latter half of their careers.

It certain as hell beat the miserable various—extra UFC Struggle Nights for Diaz and Masvidal persevering with to go unnoticed and below appreciated.

In fact, the opposite facet to that coin is the fall of dos Anjos. It’s onerous to really feel completely satisfied for Diaz and Masvidal with out feeling sympathetic in direction of the previous light-weight champ. There was a merciless irony in him being pressured to sit down out and watch a chance of a lifetime taken by Diaz, a person he’d already overwhelmed convincingly almost two years prior.

McGregor’s notorious “purple panty evening” phrase was particularly directed at dos Anjos earlier than the 2 had ever agreed to combat. However dos Anjos would by no means get that cash combat. The proposed superfight went on the back-burner after McGregor opted for a rematch with Diaz, and dos Anjos went on to lose the title to Eddie Alvarez in a merciless coincidence.

Then got here the salt within the wounds: Rafael dos Anjos truly had the preventing model able to giving McGregor actual issues.

A powerful grappling base with black belt stage Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu—on the peak of his profession—dos Anjos had all the instruments to spoil McGregor’s champ-champ aspirations and knock the present fight sports activities trajectory out of orbit. One can solely think about what the panorama would have appeared like if he walked away the victor.

Conor McGregor would have remained at featherweight and certain given Jose Aldo or Max Holloway a rematch.

Aldo was widely known as the best featherweight of all time and left in limbo after biting the mud in a 13-second knockout loss to McGregor. Not even 9 consecutive WEC/UFC title defenses and 18 straight victories might quell the blockbuster pull of the brash Irishman. Aldo’s title reign evaporated into mud as if Thanos himself had orchestrated the snap.

If dos Anjos took the bout with McGregor, the co-promotional “Struggle of the Century” with boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. may need endlessly remained a pipe dream to be debated amongst by fight sports activities followers. McGregor’s lopsided victory over Alvarez and newly-cemented champ-champ persona, coupled with a extra receptive Mayweather nearing the top of his boxing profession, was like catching lightning in a bottle.

Timing is every part within the combat enterprise, and the pairing labored out impeccably.

After which there’s the explosive rivalry with present light-weight king Khabib Nurmagomedov. It’s the ugly feud that led to cringe-worthy, private insults, a dolly being thrown via a bus window and an all-out melee that left the T-Cellular Area present flooring in Paradise, Nevada wanting just like the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Perhaps, simply possibly, that rivalry would have by no means existed if dos Anjos stepped into the cage.

If something, all of this serves as a reminder of the infinite what-ifs in a sport the place luck components in as a lot as expertise. It was merely dangerous luck that Rafael dos Anjos missed out on a chance to money in on what would have been the largest combat of his life.

However there isn’t a fortune with out misfortune in a sport with restricted alternatives, the place one man’s success breeds one other’s failure. One million totally different potentialities and dos Anjos needed to injure his foot on that day, that time and earlier than that combat.

Some semblance of destiny couldn’t be any clearer for even the snarkiest of nonbelievers.