A fighter is always judged by his wins and losses. Little does the rest of the world know the unimaginable amount of time spent inside a training camp in preparation for one fight. Unfortunately for these martial artists, one wrong move and their time in the spotlight could come to an end.

This was almost the case for Brazilian native, Rafael Natal.

Natal, born and raised in the heart of Brazil, saw early struggles in the beginning stages of his UFC run. It began in his debut where he fell short by decision to Rich Attonito at UFC Fight Night: Marquardt vs. Palhares. Natal would see yet another struggle come his way when he saw neither Jesse Bongfeldt’s or his own hand raised in his first pay-per-view performance at UFC 124.

Natal (R) lands a takedown (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Natal was in deep water quickly and in desperate need of a life raft.

Eight months later, Natal found himself in a must-win situation at UFC 133 where he met an extremely underrated wrestler in Paul Bradley. Not only was Natal able to overcome his winless streak, but capture his first win inside the UFC Octagon.

“It was one of the best moments in my MMA career,” Natal told the The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview.

It wouldn’t be long until Natal was able to see his hand raised once more in a unanimous decision victory over Michael Kuiper at UFC 143. It was Natal’s second consecutive UFC win and just as meaningful as the first.

“You always do your best to train for a fight. From starting 0-1-1 in the UFC, it was important that I get my first win. Being able to have two wins in the UFC makes me very happy,” said Natal. “I want to make sure that I keep winning.”

Natal will be served an opportunity to showcase his skill-set yet again when he meets Andrew Craig at UFC on Fuel TV 4 on Wednesday, July 11.

“It feels good to prove everyone wrong. Not many people thought I could make it to where I am today. I am very thankful to be fighting in the UFC. I don’t take any of my opponents lightly. Andrew Craig is a good fighter who has never lost before,” said Natal. “I will have to be prepared for everything he brings to the fight.”

While Natal had few things to say and nothing but respect for his upcoming opponent in Craig, he shared his unexpected journey to MMA. It was a simple armbar that caught the eye of Natal, eventually turning him into one of the more promising up-and-coming fighters in the UFC’s middleweight division.

Natal (L) attempts a spinning back fist (James Law/Heavy MMA)

“As you know I grew up in Brazil where fighting is very big. The very first move that I learned was the armbar. After learning the armbar, I wanted to learn more and more. I began to train in the sport and now I can stay that I am a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu,” said Natal. “I have come a very long way from when I first started learning the sport in Brazil.”

After falling in love with the sport of MMA in his home country of Brazil, Natal felt he needed to leave his stomping grounds in order to reach his full potential. As a result, Natal journeyed to the United States where he is now stationed in New York under Gracie Fusion.

“Brazil is where my heart is. I was born and grew up there and that is where I began to love the sport. I needed to do what was best for me and my career and that is training here in the United States. I believe the best training is here and that is why I am here,” said Natal.

“When I finish fighting in the UFC, I would like to open my own gym and help others one day,” the Brazilian declared in his final words.

Photo: Rafael Natal celebrates victory at UFC 143 (James Law/Heavy MMA)

About The Author

Managing Editor