7-year UFC vet Rafael 'Sapo' Natal announces retirement

After a 17-fight UFC run, Rafael Natal is hanging up his gloves.

The middleweight announced the decision on today’s edition of The MMA Hour. “Sapo” Natal (21-9-1 MMA, 9-7-1 UFC), a Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, most recently fought in July, when he suffered a knockout loss to Eryk Anders. The setback capped off a three-fight losing skid, including two knockouts.

“It’s very hard,” Natal said. “It was a long journey. I love MMA. I love training, cutting weight. But I’ve had some surgeries on my retina, on my eye. I’ve focused on that 100 percent of my life, during these 15 years. It’s time to step back. My mom’s asked this from me for a long time. It was a hard decision, but it’s what we have. I think it was a smart one.”

Before a loss to interim champion Robert Whittaker in April 2016, however, Natal was on quite the octagon roll. He’d beaten Chris Camozzi, Tom Watson, Uriah Hall, and Kevin Casey consecutively. Natal, who kicked off his pro MMA run in 2005, was Ring of Combat’s 185-pound champion.

While Natal never got a chance to fight for a UFC title, he did headline an event – when he subbed in for light heavyweight titleholder Lyoto Machida in a meeting with Tim Kennedy at UFC Fight Night 31. Natal was knocked out, snapping a three-fight winning streak.

Natal, who’s also a jiu-jitsu coach at Renzo Gracie Academy in New York, said that, despite the recent issues with the eye, he’d be healthy enough to fight should he desire to keep going. But he’s not only been getting pleas from his loved ones, he’s also got his focus elsewhere – as he’s opened an academy in Brazil and plans to do the same in the U.S.

Natal, however, says he’s open to taking grappling matches and will stay involved in MMA, though in a different capacity.

Asked to speak about the most memorable moment of his career, Natal couldn’t narrow it down to one. But he did mention the UFC Fight Night 28 unanimous-decision win over Tor Troeng in his hometown of Belo Horizonte, as well as the Kennedy headliner.

Not to mention a special occasion back in 2010.

“One moment that was magical was when I got the contract with the UFC,” Natal said.

Asked whether there was a possibility he would follow the example of some of his peers, who made comebacks after hanging up their gloves, Natal wouldn’t entirely shut the door on a return. But he did say it would be quite hard to bring him out of retirement.

“That’s my decision now,” Natal said. “I learned in this sport to never say never.”

Throughout his 17-fight UFC tenure, Natal gathered some impressive stats. With 36 takedowns, he’s tied with former champion Chris Weidman for most takedowns in 185-pound history. He’s also the sixth fighter with most cage time in divisional history and has landed the 4th highest number of total strikes.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC on FOX 25 results: Eryk Anders dominates, knocks out Rafael Natal in UFC debut

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Eryk Anders landed two sharp left hands, one after the other, and soon Rafael Natal was staggering across the octagon, running face-first into the chain link fence.

A couple more left hands after that, and Natal (21-9-1 MMA, 9-7-1 UFC) faceplanted into the mat, giving Anders (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) a quick knockout win at the 2:54 mark of Round 1 in his UFC debut.

The middleweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC on FOX 25 event at NYCB LIVE at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. It aired on FOX following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of a main card on FOX.

Anders, a former linebacker at the University of Alabama who helped lead the Crimson Tide to the 2009 national title, acted quickly to pin Natal up against the fence. He closed the distance and looked to land his straight left as Natal circled away.

After eating a looping right from Natal early, Anders scored with two successive lefts that clearly had Natal hurt. Anders wasted no time jumping on his wounded foe as Natal staggered across the cage, elevating him for a takedown and then mixing in knees and a head kick as Natal got back to his feet.

With Natal still hurt but trying to back Anders off with his right hand, Anders landed a hard left hand counter that put Natal down for good, dropping him on his face and forcing referee Keith Peterson to jump in and call it off as soon as Natal hit the mat.

With the win, Anders remains perfect as a professional, getting the victory in just under three minutes in his first UFC outing. Natal has now lost three in a row.

Up-to-the-minute UFC on FOX 25 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 25, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s Matt Erickson contributed to this report on site in New York.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

Despite skid, Rafael Natal not putting pressure on himself ahead of UFC on FOX 25

Although he’s riding a two-fight skid as he enters Saturday’s UFC on FOX 25, Rafael Natal is not fazed by the prospect of being released from his UFC contract. Not any more than usual, anyway.

Now 18 months removed from his last UFC win, Natal can’t deny he’s not living his brightest moment in the promotion. But there are also some extenuating factors. First, he was on a four-fight streak before a UFC 197 decision loss in April of 2016. And even that came by the hands of a man who’d go on to tear through the middleweight division before a title-winning display over Yoel Romero.

Between that and his second straight loss, a knockout by the heavy-handed Tim Boetsch at UFC 205, Natal doesn’t give himself too hard of a time in his pursuit of recovery.

“As far as worrying about being let go by the UFC, we always feel that way,” Natal told MMAjunkie ahead of Saturday’s FOX-televised event at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island, N.Y. “They can release us at any time. So I don’t put that pressure on myself. One of my losses was to Robert Whittaker, who’s now an interim champion in our weight class.

“I believe I gave him one of his most difficult fights. We were pretty even before he landed good strikes near the end of the rounds. And against Tim Boetsch, he’s a big guy with heavy hands, so that can happen to anyone. He caught me and the fight ended.”

It’s been eight months since the Boetsch loss. The layoff, Natal says, was first motivated by minor injuries, and then by his desire to fight in the state of New York once more. This time, with tickets at a more affordable price range than the ones for Madison Square Garden, the Manhattan resident expects some heavy support.

After what he says were four opponent changes, Natal (21-8-1 MMA, 9-6-1 UFC) now welcomes LFA middleweight champ Eryk Anders (7-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) into the promotion. And, while he’s the Brazilian coming into the contest, he doesn’t see himself in hostile grounds.

“Anders is an American, but New York is my home,” Natal said. “The fans know me well here. They know I love it here. I’ve been in New York for a long time. It’s going to be a New Yorker vs. a Texan.”

Natal would, of course, prefer to come out with a finish on Saturday – ideally, a submission to represent his well-known Brazilian jiu-jitsu roots. But he’ll gladly take any positive outcome in front of his friends, girlfriend and Renzo Gracie Academy crew.

In order for that to happen, Natal knows he’ll have to beat a tough up-and-comer looking to make an impression on his UFC debut. The octagon veteran also knows that, with Anders stepping in as a last-minute replacement, the pressure is mostly on him.

But, with the proper tweaks made to accommodate a southpaw who he believes has better jiu-jitsu than previous opponent Alessio Di Chirico,  there’s no lack of confidence on Natal’s end.

“As far as training goes, this is the best moment of my career,” Natal said. “I’ve never felt better. I’ve never worked so well with my training partners. My physical conditioning hasn’t been better. So I’m heading into my next fight very well trained, on my way to a great victory.

“I’ll be back to my winning ways, and ready to start a new streak. I’ve never felt better, so now I just need to bring this into my fight.”

For more on UFC on FOX 25, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie