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Rafael Carvalho in no rush but expects to win Bellator light heavyweight belt in 2020

Rafael Carvalho makes his light heavyweight debut in the co-main event of Bellator 230.
Bellator MMA

Rafael Carvalho wants to add more gold to his Bellator resume.

The Brazilian, who held the middleweight championship for almost three years between 2015 and 2018, debuts as a light heavyweight at Saturday’s Bellator 230, taking on Vadim Nemkov in Milan, Italy. Even though he guarantees he won’t rush things in pursuit of the 205-pound title, he wouldn’t be surprised if that happened as soon as next year.

“If everything goes as God wants, we’ll start or end 2020 with a new belt around my waist in this new weight class,” Carvalho told MMA Fighting. “Two or three wins against top-ranked opponents might put me as a possible title contender.”

With only two defeats over his last 18 bouts, losing to Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida, Carvalho felt “happier” in training and able to perform better now that he didn’t have to cut much weight. Coming off a decision win over Chidi Njokuani in a 190-pound catchweight bout, the American Top Team talent will also be realizing a dream at Bellator 230.

“I’ve always wanted to fight a Russian because they are all tough and well-prepared athletes,” Carvalho said. “I’m ready for this fight. The fact that he’s coming off five wins shows he’s not just a random opponent. I don’t think that just one win will earn me a title shot, I have to work my way up at light heavyweight just like I did at middleweight.”

In his middleweight days, though, the Brazilian only needed a pair of Bellator wins over Brian Rogers and Joe Schilling to earn a shot at the title. To kick things off the perfect way at 205 pounds, Carvalho hopes for a beautiful knockout win in Milan as he works towards a potential showdown with reigning champion Ryan Bader.

“A nice little knockout would be cool,” said Carvalho, who fought twice before in Italy, knocking out both Melvin Manhoef and Alessio Sakara. “He has a background in sambo but likes to trade on the feet, so I have to be prepared for all areas. I believe it’s going to be the best fight of the night. I’m motivated, I’m happy, I’m excited, so I’ll start with the right foot in this new weight class.”

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