Rafael Natal is fighting Tim Kennedy in the main event of the evening Wednesday night at UFC Fight for the Troops 3. Natal was the late replacement for Lyoto Machida, after Machida replaced the injured Michael Bisping against Mark Munoz at UFN 30. Natal is 3-0 in the UFC this year, and is looking to continue that streak Wednesday. This fight will be a long way away from his last fight, which was in his hometown of Belo Horizonte. He will be taking on a former Army Ranger in Kennedy, at an Army base, so it is safe to say the crowd will be against him. I recently sat down with Natal to discuss the fight with Kennedy, his opportunity to break into the top-10, and much more!
Fighting in the main event
I am very excited. This is a huge opportunity in my career and my life. I can not wait for Wednesday night.
Stepping in for Lyoto Machida
Lyoto is a great fighter, and top 5 in my division. When the UFC invited me to step in for him, I was feeling good. The UFC believes in me, and they trust me to take his spot. They know I can be the main event, and I was so happy to step in for a big fighter like him.
His thoughts on Tim Kennedy
I think my heart and jiu-jitsu is better than his. I also think my wrestling and stand up is not better than his, but just as good. His jiu-jitsu is okay, and his cardio is very good. I am a complete MMA fighter too. My stand up is improving every day, my conditioning is good, and I think we will have a very interesting fight.
Tim Kennedy out grappling Roger Gracie
It did not surprise me, because Tim went to the ground with Roger after he was tired. I want to see him go to the ground with Roger when he is fresh. Roger, even though he made 185, cut too much weight. He fought pretty well in the first round, but the second and third round was a different Roger. Roger’s conditioning was just not the same level that night.
Fighting an Army Ranger at an Army base
It is definitely different than my last fight, but I don’t think it will affect the fight. Of course, it was great to fight in my hometown with the crowd behind me. When you fight with the crowd behind you though, you have to be careful you don’t lose focus. This time, I have to do the same thing. I have to stay focused, not get over excited in the cage, and not let the crowd get me nervous. I am ready for it, and it will be a good experience.
His goal for this fight
I am trying to get into the top-10 and if I beat Tim Kennedy, I think I will for sure be in the top-10. The next fight I would want to fight someone in the top-5 or top-10 for sure. That is my goal.
Fighting four times in one year
If I do not have any injuries in my fights, then I can fight this much. I always train hard, and I am always ready to fight. I am a very healthy guy, I eat well and train hard. This year I had no injuries, so I was able to fight four times and it was great. It was definitely a blessed year for me with my team. I am going to finish the year with this victory and it will be great. If I don’t have any injuries, I can fight five times a year.
Who wins: Anderson Silva or Chris Weidman?
It is hard to say who will win because Weidman trains really hard and Anderson is the best fighter in the world. We don’t know how Anderson will be after losing on his feet, because he never lost like that. A lot of fighters come back stronger from a loss, but some come back weaker from a loss. We have to see how Anderson will react. It will be a very interesting fight, and I cannot wait for it.
His favorite fighter currently
I don’t have one favorite fighter, but I like to watch all the champions because they are the best. I like to watch all the fighters, because then I can take something from them and put it into my game. Frankie Edgar, Anderson Silva, Jon Jones are all great fighters to watch.
All time favorite fighter
Dan Henderson has got to be my all time favorite. He fought at Heavyweight, Light Heavyweight, and Middleweight. He is amazing. He is fighting Vitor Belfort on Saturday, and Vitor is a beast too. That will be a very interesting fight.
Favorite career moment
Right now. God has blessed me with this moment, I have won 3 fights in a row this year, and my last one was in my hometown. I fought for my team and my family, and everyone was there to watch me. Now, I have this huge opportunity to fight in the main event, and that is the best moment in my career. I hope to have more great moments like this. I can’t explain how happy I am for this opportunity.