Pupil of Vinícius Draculino and Renzo Gracie, the middleweight Rafael “Sapo” Natal will get back into action on UFC on December 11, the day that UFC 124 will happen, and he is confident for his first win on the cage, after his debut against Rich Attonito. On an exclusive interview given to TATAME, Sapo talked about his debut and analyzed the game of his next opponent, Jason MacDonald. “He’s fought a lot, has a lot of experience, has a good JIu-Jitsu and is also coming from a loss and needs this win pretty bad, just like me”, said Sapo, commenting on the return of Ricardo “Big Dog” Almeida, who will fight on the same event, and betting that Renzo Gracie will fight again on UFC. “He’ll come back, I’m pretty sure of it, he loves fighting… Sometimes he decide to train the guys, gives everyone a hard time and then leaves us (laughs)”, said.
Things didn’t come out the way you were expecting. What happened?
Yeah, at any point I thought I’d be defeat, but I was. I was well trained, very well accessorized, I felt pretty good, but I couldn’t. What happened was that Rich was better on this fight and won the bout. Unfortunately, it wasn’t my night.
Did you feel any strange pressure as you fought on UFC?
As a matter of fact I felt pretty good, I wasn’t nervous, neither anxious. Many people who don’t know what happened commented that I was apathetic and accepting the loss. I was fine on the fight until I was knocked down, from then on I was on the automatic. The punch was really hard, I wasn’t really there. I don’t remember anything, that’s why my presentation was below average. Who saw me fighting before knew I wasn’t on my normal state there.
How is your preparation for this fight going?
The preparation is great, I’ve been trying to improve in all areas every day, we have great coaches, great training partners… I’m much focused, just like in all my fights.
Your opponent, Jason MacDonald, is very experienced and had many fights on UFC. What do you know about his game?
I know he’s fought a lot, is much experienced, has a good Jiu-Jitsu and is also coming from a loss, so he needs this win as much as I do.
Most of his wins were by submission, but he has lost on the ground game too. Do you think this is the best way to get a win out off this fight?
I don’t know, we’re studying him. I’m improving my stand-up game, but for sure the ground game can be a way out.
Do you want to make the difference inside the octagon?
For sure I want to make a difference in the UFC, I think that this is the dream all that fight and I’m not any different. I didn’t come here to be one more, I work hard every day and I want to be one of the bests.
You train with great names like Draculino e Renzo. How does it help on your preparation and your game plan for the fights?
It’s great to have coaches of this level, I have two Jiu-Jitsu coaches who are among the best in the world and both have great MMA knowledge. They help me to set a game plan to get the win.
Big Dog will fight on the same night you will. Is it an extra incentive for your trainings?
For sure, it’s always good to have somebody on your team with a fight scheduled, and I’m pretty confident for a win.
What do you expect for his fight against TJ Grant?
Big Dog is doing just fine, training a lot, as usual, and I’m confident that he’ll win.
Renzo signed a six-fight contract with UFC and debuted against Matt Hughes in April, but he lost. Do you think he will return to the American octagon?
He’ll come back, for sure, he loves fighting… Soon, he’ll be back.
Does he train a lot MMA on your gym?
Not really, he’s much busy with many other things and there’s anything n wrong with that… Sometimes he comes and train with us, beat the guys and then leave (laughs).
Do you want a sent a message?
I’d like to thank TATAME for promoting my work since the beginning of my career. I also thank God, my family, my coaches, my training partners, students, and all Sapo Team and mainly my brother Phillip (Girino), who came to Brazil to spend 40 days with me, for all the support I’ve been given after my defeat. Many people say that when you’re fine everyone comes to congratulate you, but when you lose they turn back at you, but after this defeat I could prove that all people around me, being in America and Brazil, are beside me no matter what. Thank you all and you can be sure that I’ll do everything in my power to bring this win to Brazil. I think it’ll be a great gift for this end of the year (laughs).