Originally booked to meet Alessio Di Chirico on Saturday’s UFC event in Long Island, “Sapo" will now take on promotional newcomer Eryk Anders, who enters the Octagon for the first time with a perfect 8-0 record.
"I had to take a look on Google,” Natal told MMA Fighting. "They offered me two guys before but it didn’t happen as well.”
According to Natal, the UFC first offered him a fight “with a Polish guy,” but he couldn’t take the fight due to visa issues. The UFC moved on and booked him against a fighter from New Jersey, but they changed plans once again after contracts were signed.
Anders was the third option, and, at that point, “Sapo" would just agree to face anyone.
“My coach [Vinicius] ’Draculino’ already watched him fight in Texas before,” he said, "and I told them I’d fight anyone because I thought I would have no opponent at all. [My manager] Ali [Abdel-Aziz] sent his name to my coach, but I didn’t know him."
A 30-year-old middleweight born in San Antonio, Texas, Anders fought once under the Bellator banner, finishing Brian White in 23 seconds last October, and recently won the LFA middleweight belt. “Frankenstein" finished five of his opponents in the first round.
Natal only had a couple of days to spar with southpaws ahead of UFC on FOX 25, but says it was enough to adjust his game plan.
"He’s a southpaw, so that changed a lot my training,” he said. "He has a heavy left hand and likes to grapple as well, has a good butterfly guard, good takedowns and takedown defense. He’s well-rounded and strong, a former football player, but I’m ready. I did a great camp, injury-free, and evolved a lot as a fighter, so I’m ready for this war."
"I’m not putting this extra pressure over myself, that I can get cut if I lose, but he absolutely has no obligation,” Natal said. "He took the fight on short notice and I have a lot of experience in the UFC, so the responsibility is on me. But I try not to think about it, it’s just another fight and I’m feeling great.
"I’m coming off two losses, against Whittaker, who just won the (interim) belt and it was a great fight, I lost by a thin margin, and to Tim Boetsch. I believe in my game a lot and I’ll get a great victory Saturday.”
After competing inside Madison Square Garden last November, “Sapo" now enters the cage a 45-minute drive away from home, and predicts a stoppage victory at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.
"I feel I’m fighting at home,” he said. "Even though he's American, I live in New York for nine years, so I know a lot of people there and in Long Island, so I’m at home here."