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Former Strikeforce champ Rafael Cavalcante hopes to join Bellator next year

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Rafael Cavalcante is a former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion.
Esther Lin, Strikeforce

Seen as one of the best light heavyweights in the world in the earlier this decade, Rafael Cavalcante wants a spot in the big leagues again.

“Feijao” stopped “King Mo” Lawal to claim the Strikeforce belt and improve to 10-2 with 10 finishes in MMA in 2010. Even though his title reign didn’t last long, he was brought in by the UFC after the company purchased Strikeforce.

Cavalcante, who also holds knockout wins over the likes of Yoel Romero and Igor Pokrajac, was let go by the UFC after a 1-4 run in the Octagon, but is building himself up again and targeting another top organization in Bellator, which is run by his former Strikeforce promoter Scott Coker.

Coming off a win over Dan Konecke at World Fight Tour 7 in Spain, an event labeled as “Road to Bellator”, “Feijao” expects to compete in Barcelona in November and earn a ticket to Coker’s promotion.

”My goal is to go to Bellator,” Cavalcante told MMA Fighting. “I believe it will happen. I think it’s a 95 percent chance, but I have this fight in Spain first. I’m just waiting for an opponent, but it will probably be in November.”

“(Coker) is a great man,” he continued. “I’ve known him for years and he has always treated me very well, inside and outside of competition. He’s really cool.”

With wins over Romero and “King Mo”, who still compete at a high level, Cavalcante is confident he can be a player in the light heavyweight division.

”I’m very competitive and I like to push myself all the time, and I’m focused on that,” Cavalcante said. “I’m always ready to fight. I’m taking care of my body to fight uninjured. My focus is to get there. (Bellator champion Ryan) Bader is there as well, and he’s still stuck in my throat, but we will solve this. I will make it happen.”

With only three wins over his past nine bouts, Cavalcante went back to the drawing board to evolve as a mixed martial artist and find the right motivation to return.

Being released by the UFC wasn’t good, but he admits that it forced him to look at the bigger picture for the first time.

”It took a while because I couldn’t see it,” Cavalcante said. “I should have changed before and I blame myself as well for not doing it. When you get to a certain stage, you get too comfortable. Not that you stop training, but sometimes you train hard but don’t evolve. Things evolve too quickly in our sport. A technique that worked a year ago doesn’t work anymore.

”We’re in there and we have to know how to deal with this situation, to have people judging you,” he continued. “I’m not complaining because that’s how things are, but I had to go back to my origins. Nobody knows what we go through to get in there, but it was good for me to reinvent myself and rise again to be able to do what I know.”