Natan Schulte was an unknown name on the PFL lightweight roster a year ago, but went on to win the million dollar prize in the end of the first season.
“Russo” capped off his almost-perfect year in the PFL cage with a decision victory over fellow American Top Team fighter Rashid Magomedov in New York on Dec. 31, winning the season 2018 belt. Schulte admits the match was tougher than he anticipated, but he did enough to claim the gold after all.
The Brazilian 155-pounder also pocketed one million dollars with the victory, more money than he had ever made in his entire 19-fight career in mixed martial arts. After making sure he would not pay attention to the monetary prize ahead of the contest, Schulte can now make plans for the extra cash.
”There’s nothing fancy I want to buy,” Schulte told MMA Fighting. “When I was a young kid, I dreamed about having a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, but that doesn’t interest me like it used to in the past. There’s nothing fancy I wanna do with money. I will make some investments.”
Speaking of plans for the future, Schulte believes his contract with PFL will be automatically renewed after he won the first season’s lightweight tournament, and right now he’s focusing on competing next season to try to pocket another seven-figure paycheck. That said, “Russo” wouldn’t turn down opportunities against tougher opposition in the UFC or Bellator.
”I still don’t know what’s next,” Schulte said. “I’ll take some time off. It was a long period of training for me, competing at a high level. I’ll stay off for two months to rest and take care of my health and then I’ll see what I’ll do next.”
“(Lightweight) was one of the toughest divisions at PFL because it had a lot of ex-UFC fighters, guys who had good performances in the UFC, so I only fought tough competition,” he continued. “Rashid was a tough opponent and I had to bring a great strategy to defeat him. I definitely have what it takes to be among the best in the world, among the best in the UFC and Bellator. I believe in my potential.”
Lightweight is also one of the most stacked weight classes in the UFC, with undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov sitting at the top right now, while Michael Chandler once again holds the championship over at Bellator.
Unbeaten in five fights in 2018 and having gone 14-1-1 since 2012, Schulte is confident that he will be ready to face the world’s best soon.
”Both Khabib and Chandler are extremely high-level guys,” Schulte said. “I believe I’m my level is high as well, but I still have to evolve in some aspects. With more time training here at ATT, I will evolve and fix some mistakes, like I’ve been doing… but I’m a fighter and I’m not afraid to go toe-to-toe with anyone. I believe I can fight the best.”
He’s not against the idea of leaving PFL to fight for another company, but would have to be well compensated for that.
”I’ve proven throughout this season here at PFL that I deserve to fight among the best,” Schulte said. “To leave a promotion where I made a million dollars this year to fight for another promotion, it has to be fighting the best in another big promotion, UFC or Bellator. I really believe I can fight the top 5 of the UFC and Bellator, for sure.”