Natan Schulte moved one step closer to the Professional Fighters League lightweight playoffs with a decision victory over UFC veteran Chris Wade at PFL 2 on June 21, and enjoyed being the guy no one knows on the roster. Now, he faces Brian Foster in the main event of PFL 5 in Uniondale, N.Y., on Aug. 2.
Schulte, who won three points in the PFL system with a decision victory in Chicago, entered the season 15 months after a submission defeat in his first and only bout under the WSOF. A former champion in Brazil, Schulte’s rise in sports is actually thanks to school bullies.
Born in Joinville, Brazil, Schulte was constantly getting beat up in school. He doesn’t know exactly why other kids wanted to pick a fight with him all the time, but he would never fight back. One day he got tired of the attacks and decided to start training kung fu and become a fighting machine like those guys he saw kicking butt in movies.
”I got beat up a lot in school when I was a kid, so I got pissed off and decided I had to do something,” Schulte told MMA Fighting. “I was 12 years old, I loved watching Jackie Chan and Jet Li movies, so I wanted to train kung fu, but there was no kung fu gyms nearby. There was a muay thai class in a gym close to home, so I went there. I just wanted to beat up some kids that bullied me, learn to throw some kicks and punches, but I started enjoying it.”
Schulte enjoyed training right away, and couldn’t wait for someone to try to mess with him again. The problem is that everyone in the school heard that he was training muay thai, so bullies quickly stopped targeting him.
”Right after I started training I realized no one wanted to beat me up anymore,” Schulte laughed. “They got scared… I don’t know. It’s funny because I never had a chance to get my revenge [laughs]. I wanted them to look at me and pick a fight so I could beat them up, but they wouldn’t do that — and I wouldn’t be the one starting a fight with them.”
Shortly after he fell in love with muay thai, Schulte decided to train other martial arts. He was training jiu-jitsu and judo as well, but loved watching people fight in the UFC and some old PRIDE videos.
It didn’t take long for him to have a new goal in life: become a mixed martial artist.
Schulte started his professional MMA career with the regional scene in Brazil, amassing a good record before signing with XFC International, an international promotion that had a good TV deal in Brazil and was putting on weekly events on live television. Schulte joined XFCi and won a lightweight tournament in a matter of months. With a 10-2 record in the sport, Schulte has more goals.
”I remember watching Thiago ‘Pitbull’ (Alves) walking out with that old American Top Team flag. I remember seeing that flag and that logo all the time, and I thought, ‘Man, is this a team? It must be big,’” said Schulte, who became interested in joining ATT.
The lightweight prospect contacted the team’s head coaches and was invited to visit the team in April 2016, and felt at home. He won a fight in Brazil weeks later and fell short in his WSOF debut in 2017, but once again had his hands raised at PFL.
“(Wade) is a wrestler and would try to take me down, so our idea was to wear him out and then do my game — and that’s what we did,” Schulte said. “He got tired after the first round, and from that point it was all me. I wish I had finished the fight, but it was important to fight because I was away for so long. Doing three rounds was more important than a knockout or a submission because it gets me more confident for the next fight.”
Robert Watley, Brian Foster, Will Brooks and Islam Mamedov — the guy who beat Schulte at WSOF 35 — are the other lightweights who scored points in the opening round. Schulte might be considered the underdog, but expects more eyeballs on him going forward.
“Being unknown definitely helps because Chris Wade was a former UFC fighter, even the promoters pointed him out as one of the favorites,” Schulte said. “People will see me with different eyes now. It’s not like a beat a nobody, I beat a guy who had a good record in the UFC, so I think that puts me right up there.”
Despite the fact that he hasn’t been very active since 2015, competing only once a year, he’s confident that his previous experience in a tournament at XFC International, beating three opponents in four months, gives him the edge over some of the competitors.
”I already knew how to prepare for back-to-back fights back then,” Schulte said. “I know my body way better this time, I have great coaches at American Top Team, and I will do even better. Every aspect of the preparation, I will be 100 percent for my next fight and do well.”
From a bullied kid to American Top Team protege in a million-dollar run inside the PFL cage, Schulte doesn’t allow himself to make plans for a huge paycheck that might come by the end of 2018.
”You know when you play Powerball and wonder what you would do with the money? I didn’t think too much about what I would do if I won this tournament,” Schulte said. “It’s too far away from me yet. I’m focusing on my fights and what I have to do. I think about each fight at a time because every fight matters.”