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Rafael Carvalho done fighting at middleweight, wants to ‘test’ himself at light heavyweight

Rafael Carvalho wants his next Bellator fight to be at 205 pounds.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Rafael Carvalho wants more changes in his life.

The former Bellator middleweight champion left Evolucao Thai in Curitiba, Brazil, to join American Top Team in Florida earlier this year, and debuted with a decision win over Chidi Njokuani at last Friday’s Bellator 224. Now, he wants his next Bellator bout to be at light heavyweight.

“My manager told me they wanted to put me in a (middleweight) title fight next, but I told him I don’t want that. My priority now is to move up a division,” Carvalho told MMA Fighting. “I had that in mind already. Even if they do offer me a title shot, I’ll decline. I want to move up to light heavyweight and test myself. I want new challenges.”

Carvalho was coming off back-to-back defeats to Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida, snapping a 15-fight long winning streak, and wanted his last bout to be at 205 pounds. Carvalho, who missed weight for his middleweight clash with Machida, was originally scheduled to face Njokuani at middleweight, but says the promotion informed him of a change hours before the official weigh-ins, making it a 190-pound catchweight.

The middleweight belt recently changed hands, with Carvalho’s former teammate Rafael Lovato Jr. taking it from Mousasi in Europe. The Brazilian is not interested in going after the title he held between 2015 and 2018, though.

“I don’t think about becoming middleweight champion anymore,” Carvalho said. “I already know how that feels. I have to test myself in a different weight class now. I believe that, with a specific and professional guidance I’ll perform way better than I used to do at 185.”

Carvalho is open to a quick turnaround after defeating Njokuani, hoping to make his 205-pound debut as soon as mid-September. And if Bellator is planning on doing a light heavyweight grand prix later this year, count him in.

“I believe I would do well in a tournament with only the best,” Carvalho said. “Not taking anything away from the other athletes, but I think I would do really well. Let’s do it. I spoke with my manager, now I have to wait and see what Bellator says.”

Yet, don’t expect to see Carvalho say he would beat light heavyweight — and heavyweight — champion Ryan Bader right now.

“I don’t think I can face him right now,” Carvalho said. “He’s on a roll, has another fight booked (versus Cheick Kongo on Sept. 7), and I still have to adapt to this new weight, spar with light heavyweights in the gym, so many things will change for me. I have to adapt to the division.

“Right now I don’t think I’m ready, but down the line, with the right training and preparation, everything will be alright.”