Rafael Carvalho has a date in mind for his next fight inside the Bellator cage.
The middleweight champion successfully defended his Bellator belt twice in 2017, knocking out Melvin Manhoef and Alessio Sakara in April and December, respectively, and is now hoping to be back in action around July.
After seeing John Salter as a potential title contender, especially after his 5-0 run in Bellator, Carvalho has decided to sit and wait for Mousasi.
”I don’t think it’s going to be (Salter),” Carvalho told MMA Fighting. “I spoke with my manager and it’s probably going to be Mousasi. And I want Mousasi. I want him no matter what. We’ll wait for him and see what happens. I think he’s going to have surgery now, so he should be good to fight in July.”
Mousasi made his Bellator debut in October, defeating Alexander Shlemenko via unanimous decision, but suffered a broken orbital bone during the bout. According to Mousasi's manager Nima Safapour, "The Dreamcatcher" won't need surgery, and is open to coming back earlier than Carvalho thought.
"We respect the champion and are looking forward to competing against him," Safapour told MMA Fighting. "Gegard is ready and hungry. Our goal is simple. A new era is coming to the Bellator middleweight category. The Mousasi Era. And it will begin anytime after April.”
Carvalho believes that dealing with such an injury will give him some advantage against Mousasi.
”I’m training now and I won’t stop training,” said Carvalho, unbeaten in six Bellator fights. “I believe that that gives me an advantage, but it’s a fight. Some guys come back after a while and fight even better, just like Jon Jones did (against Daniel Cormier). I don’t see that as a big advantage, but it’s something.”
Another idea that could happen in the future is a superfight with newly crowned Rory MacDonald, who won the Bellator belt after a five-round war with Douglas Lima in California earlier this month.
“The Red King” mentioned potential fights at middleweight or even at heavyweight after defeating Paul Daley in his Bellator debut, and Carvalho believes he should stay at 170 pounds.
“I don’t think he comes up,” Carvalho said. “Douglas Lima almost killed him. He really killed him, hurt him in his division, so imagine if he moves up, man.”
MacDonald’s longtime training partner and friend Georges St-Pierre was successful in his attempt to go from welterweight to middleweight, choking out Michael Bisping to win the UFC belt in November, but Carvalho doesn’t see that happening again for one simple reason.
“It was against Bisping, and Bisping is an easy fight. Everybody knew that St-Pierre would win,” he said. “But it’s different. I think everyone is trying to be like Conor McGregor. ‘McGregor did this, so let’s do it, too.’ It’s not natural, they are trying to copy someone. They don’t have personality. Stay in your division. He’s the champion now.
”But if he wants to move up and test himself, great, I’m ready. I like challenges. The fight world is full of challenges.”