Rafael dos Anjosplans to be a UFC champ again, but the future Hall of Famer isn't fighting a top 5 ranked opponent when he returns to the Octagon Saturday night ... 'cause RDA tells TMZ Sports the dudes at the top of the division simply won't fight him.
"We're trying to get a fight with all the guys ahead of me on the rankings, but nobody seems to want to fight," #7 ranked dos Anjos says, adding many fighters will only face guys ranked higher than them.
We asked the soon-to-be 38-year-old fighter -- who's beaten guys like Nate Diaz, Robbie Lawler, and Donald Cerrone -- specifically who turned down the fight.
"Everybody. We tried everybody. We tried [Michael] Chandler, we tried [Justin] Gaethje. We tried everybody. It seems to not work. We threw all the names out there. Trying to get a better fight with a better-ranked opponent. But, besides Beneil Dariush, he's my friend, I didn't try to fight him. But other than that, seems like nobody wants to take a 'step back.'"
FYI, there's (technically) no lightweight champ. The strap was stripped from Charles Oliveira (#1) after he missed weight prior to his title fight with Justin (#3) in May. Dustin Poirier is ranked #2, Islam Makhachev #4, Chandler #5, and Dariush is #6.
As for the guy RDA is fighting ... 29-year-old Rafael Fiziev is a savage. He's ranked #10, and has only lost once (11-1) in his professional career. RF last fought in December 2021 ... when he knocked out Brad Riddell with a spinning head kick in the final round.
Both top 10 fighters are attempting to get to the same place ... the top of the lightweight division. Dos Anjos has been there before ... defeating Anthony Pettis for the LW belt in 2015.
Fiziev's trying to claw his way to the top for the first time.
Bottom line ... only one Rafael can emerge the winner Saturday night.