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Bellator champ Rafael Carvalho meets Alessio Sakara in Italy, hopes for Gegard Mousasi showdown in early 2018

Rafael Carvalho fought once in Italy, defeating Melvin Manhoef via fourth-round knockout
Bellator MMA

Gegard Mousasi was willing to compete for the Bellator middleweight championship in his promotional debut, but it looks like that’s not happening right away.

A day after Mousasi announced on The MMA Hour that he left the UFC to sign a 6-fight deal with Bellator, the promotion’s middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho told MMA Fighting he signed his next title defense.

"The plan continues the same,” Carvalho said on Tuesday. "I signed the contract today to fight Alessio Sakara in December, so it's done.”

According to the middleweight champion, the fight will take place Dec. 9 in Florence, Italy.

Carvalho says he wants to meet Mousasi in the Bellator cage, but doesn’t believe the former Strikeforce and Dream champion deserves an immediate shot at the Bellator gold.

"I don’t think it’s right to have Mousasi fighting for the title right away,” he said. "He should fight once or twice to prove he deserves this chance. It would be disrespectful to other fights who are competing for their opportunities in the division. It would be unfair. If Bellator did that, it would be the same thing the UFC does to other fighters, and that's not nice.”

Sakara, another UFC veteran, will return to the middleweight after a pair of TKO wins as a light heavyweight in the Bellator cage, and Carvalho expects “an exciting fight," the kind of match-up “that American fans love to watch.”

As of Mousasi, the Brazilian envisions themselves meeting in early 2018.

"MMA is a small world,” Carvalho said. "I might not fight him today, but I might fight him in two days from now. Bellator is already making plans for 2018, and I’ll fight him early next year. We will fight as soon as possible. That's up to the promotion. My job is to go in there and fight."

"Mousasi has a big name and a history in the sport,” he continued. "I think people would start to show me more respect beating him, will see me as a champion. The North American media still doesn’t recognize me. I don’t know what I have to do to have their attention. But I don’t have to worry about that. I have to focus on training for my opponents and beating them up. Beating (Mousasi), I think people will look at me."

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