BELO HORIZONTE, Brazil -- Born and raised in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Rafael "Sapo" Natal believed he’d never fight in his home country again after his unanimous decision victory over Joao Zeferino at UFC on FX 8 last May, but the desire of performing in front of his friends and fans made him change his mind.
"I owed that to my fans and friends," Natal said after his fight. "I moved to New York five years ago, and I said to myself I’d never fight here again. Taxes here are terrible, man. But then the UFC called me to fight in Jaragua and I accepted. I needed to fight in Brazil at least one time. ‘Ok, I fought there and that’s it’. And then they announced they’d be back to Belo Horizonte, my city, and I owed my friends a fight here."
"After the first round I thought I would win it easily, but I have to suffer to win," he said with a laugh. "I will move up the rankings quietly, and then when people realize, here I am. That dude is tough, man. He tried to ruin my party, but no way I’d let that happen here."
"Sapo" came close to finish the Swedish middleweight in the first round, but somehow Troeng managed to survive. Natal got excited to finish the bout, but tough lessons learned against Andrew Craig made him more patient.
"That’s the fight where I learned more, I’ve learned a lot from his kick," he said. "That was my best performance in 22 fights, I was so confident I thought I’d never lose that fight, and then he landed that kick. Today, I knocked Troeng down twice but calmed down. The fight is not over until it’s over."
Natal is 5-1 in his last 6 bouts in the UFC, and patience is the key to keep moving up the rankings.
"Maybe a title shot," Natal joked when asked about his next fight. "I’ll move up step by step. UFC knows how to do this. I have the best coaches in the world, and I’ll be ready for fight anyone they say."