clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Rafael Natal aims for top 5 status by the end of 2016

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Rafael Natal returns to the Octagon, following an upset win over Uriah Hall, at Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 18, and hopes this is the last time he’s fighting someone outside the top 15 of the middleweight division.

Winner of three straight, capped off by a decision over Hall in May, "Sapo" underwent surgery twice to repair a detached retina in 2015. He was offered an option to postpone his next bout until the UFC could find him a better ranked opponent, but chose to fight in Newark after all.

"I was hoping for (a top 15 opponent)," Natal told "The UFC told me in November they wanted me fighting at this event because I live 20 minutes away from the arena. They haven’t told my opponent by December, but confirmed me on the card. In January, they said they didn’t have any top 15 available and asked me if I wanted to postpone the fight, but I said I’d rather fight someone outside the top 15 instead of waiting, so they gave me Kevin Casey."

Casey’s only UFC win, a decision over Ildemar Alcantara, is sandwiched by a pair of no contests against Bubba Bush and Antonio Carlos Junior, while Natal holds a 8-4-1 record under the UFC banner.

"After this fight, they can’t deny me a top 10 or 15," said the Brazilian. "It’s my 14th fight in the UFC, and they have to give me a better name next. I will leave them with no other option. After this fight, after this win, I want to return in May against a big name to get to the top of the division. I want to fight four times in 2016, I want to be a top 5 by the end of the year.

"My plan for 2015 was to fight four times, but I was only able to fight twice because of my injuries in the Uriah Hall fight. I had many injuries throughout my career, broke my hand three times, but I never had to stay away from training for two months like this time. It turned out great because I was able to get some rest and come back even better."

Ranked at No. 15 in the middleweight division, "Sapo" feels that he needs "a big win to become a top 10 after this fight". And by "a big win", Natal means submitting a fellow jiu-jitsu black belt.

"He’s explosive and strong. His jiu-jitsu is great, especially when he’s at top position," Natal said. "He’s a black belt under Rickson Gracie, so he’s really good. He has heavy hands, too. He’s very dangerous in the first round, so I plan on slowing him down and do my thing. I see myself finishing him in the second round. I’ll put some pressure. I want to win no matter how, but it would be cool to submit him in the second round."

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Fighting Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Fighting