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Bellator champ Rafael Carvalho hopes Scott Coker signs top middleweights Gegard Mousasi, ‘Jacare' Souza

Rafael Carvalho Bellator

Rafael Carvalho remains unbeaten under the Bellator banner following his second middleweight title defense at Bellator 176 in Torino, Italy on Saturday, and he’s excited about the possibility of new blood coming to the division in the future.

Carvalho improved to 5-0 in Bellator with a fourth-round knockout victory over Melvin Manhoef. Afterward, he admitted he didn’t expect the veteran striker to last that long.

"It went exactly how we planned, but I expected the knockout to come earlier, in the second round,” Carvalho told MMA Fighting. “But it was good because the best part came in the end. I believe he took a lot of damage and hung in there. He was a bit tired after the second round. But I think it went exactly as we planned.”

Prior to the bout, Carvalho told MMA Fighting he didn’t pay attention to the criticism surrounding his lackluster and controversial decision win over Manhoef last May. But with Bellator 176 now in the books, the Brazilian admitted he was bothered by it.

"Yes, yes. Of course,” Carvalho said. "I couldn’t show it, but deep inside it was bothering me because people were only criticizing me because of that first fight. I was the target. I used that as fuel for this fight. I think that now they will forget that fight and be quiet.

"It was really special for me because winning this fight, I shut up a lot of people from international media and their fans,” he continued. "Now, they will start to see me in a different way. The whole world will see me in a different way now. I think I surprised and shocked the fight world."

Carvalho now holds a 14-1 MMA record with 11 knockout finishes. Bellator has yet to announce who’s next in line for the 185-pound gold, but the possibility of the promotion’s president Scott Coker going after top UFC middleweight Gegard Mousasi, who became a free agent after his win over Chris Weidman, and Ronaldo Souza, who will fight the last bout in his UFC contract the Saturday against Robert Whittaker, is music to Carvalho’s ears.

"It would be good,” said the Bellator champion. "It would be good for the promotion, would show its strength, that it’s growing. There are a lot of athletes moving over to Bellator, and they wouldn't be the first nor the last. There are athletes going the opposite way too, from Bellator to the UFC, and that shows there’s a balance between both organizations.

"I believe I can do well against both top UFC fighters. I can fight them and do well. Who knows what the future will bring for us. It’s in God’s hands."

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