UFC middleweight Rafael Natal hung up his gloves.
The Brazilian fighter, who competed inside the Octagon 17 times over the last seven years, announced on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he has decided to retire from his mixed martial arts career.
"I came here today to announce my retirement from MMA," Natal said. "It was the toughest walk in today to your studio because it is hard to make this announcement, but I talked to my family, my friend, my coaches. That is the time. I have new focus in my career as a coach, so that’s the (right) thing to do in the moment.
"It’s very hard, you know? It was a long journey. I love MMA, I love training, cutting weight, but I had some surgeries before. I'm focused on that 100% in my life, doing this 15 years, so it's time to step back. My mom asked me this a long time ago, and that was a hard decision, but that’'s what we have."
“Sapo” made his Octagon debut in 2010, scoring his first UFC win against Paul Bradley in 2011 after going 0-1-1 in his first two appearances. The jiu-jitsu black belt leaves the sport with a 21-9-1 record with 12 finishes (9-7-1 in the UFC) since his professional debut in 2005.
A former Ring of Combat middleweight champion, Natal ends his career on a three-fight losing skid, including a decision loss to current UFC interim middleweight titleholder Robert Whittaker, after winning four in a row between 2014 and 2016.
Natal, who turns 35 in December, beat Kevin Casey, Uriah Hall, Tom Watson and Chris Camozzi in that 4-0 run. The Brazilian veteran also holds a knockout win over former UFC contender Travis Lutter, a finish that earned him a contract with the UFC.
"Some circumstances brought me to it,” said Natal, citing an eye surgery as one of the things that affected him mentally in his most recent bouts. "I just opened a huge school in Brazil now and plan to open here in New York too. I'm coming from three losses now, the last two were really bad."
The Brazilian middleweight say he’s 100 percent medically fit to compete in MMA, but plans on coming back to jiu-jitsu competition in 2018.