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For Natan Schulte, fighting a teammate in PFL’s tournament final is a double-edged sword

Natan Schulte (right) faces teammate Rashid Magomedov at PFL 14 in New York.
Ryan Loco, PFL

Natan Schulte and Rashid Magomedov have a unique perspective on their opponents for the upcoming PFL lightweight tournament final.

Schulte and Magomedov are teammates at American Top Team, and both earned spots in the promotion’s million-dollar tournament final on Dec. 31, which is set to take place at the PFL 11 card in New York. Both men have been training under the same roof for more than two years in Florida, and the Brazilian sees the situation as a double-edged sword.

“We always trained together,” Schulte told MMA Fighting. “I did less training with him when we started fighting on the same grand prix. We would still do the same training, like jiu-jitsu and wrestling, sometimes at the same time, but we weren’t really rolling or sparring anymore. Sometimes I watched his training, sometimes he watched mine.”

Schulte believes he has only had a handful of sparring sessions with Magomedov in the time the two have shared the Florida gym. They’ve trained together plenty of times in jiu-jitsu and wrestling classes though, and according to Schulte, that’s enough to provide an extra confidence boost ahead of PFL 11.

“I already knew how he fought when he was in the UFC, but after we started training together, now I know the holes in his game,” Schulte said. “It’s not much, he’s a complete fighter, but I’ve trained with him. He has a good defensive wrestling, has great submission defense even though he doesn’t have a high-level jiu-jitsu. I know how it’s going to be. I know how he starts every round. I can read his game really well.”

Schulte has gone 3-0-1 under the PFL banner over the past six months, while Magomedov has won two of three (2-0-1) since joining the company.

Fighting someone you’ve trained with for a long time is a bit uncommon in mixed martial arts, but not altogether unprecedented for Schulte. Back in August, the Brazilian was slated to face Brian Foster at PFL 5, but ended up fighting former training parter Jason High instead. Even though the two had worked together before, Schulte doesn’t believe their familiarity made a major difference in the bout.

“I knew Jason High had a great guillotine,” said Schulte, who won by first-round submission, “but he never caught me in training with it. I almost tapped once, I even got my hand ready to tap, but I got out [laughs]. I knew his strongest weapons and he knew mine as well, but that’s not why I was able to submit him.”

Schulte doesn’t expect an easy night in New York, even if he is confident that he knows how Magomedov fights. He does, however, expect that a win — and a million-dollar check — will change his life forever, both inside and outside of the cage.

“I’ll invest the money and take my career to another level,” Schulte said. “This is the year when I finally started to make money in MMA because it’s hard to so outside the UFC. I’m in my prime now at age 26 and I’ve evolved a lot since I came to ATT.”

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