He may no longer hold the Bellator middleweight championship, but Rafael Carvalho feels at peace.
Friday night at Bellator 224, Carvalho (15-3 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) will return to the cage to take on Chidi Njokuani (18-6 MMA, 5-2 BMMA) in the evening’s co-main event.
The event takes place at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla. The main card will stream on Paramount Network following the prelims on MMA Junkie.
It’s been a rough past couple of fights for the 32-year-old Brazilian. After winning 15 straight bouts and the Bellator title in the process, Carvalho has dropped his last two. After losing his belt to Gegard Mousasi in May 2018, Carvalho dropped a close split decision Lyoto Machida in December.
“Sooner or later, this was going to happen,” Carvalho told MMA Junkie. “But I think it happened at the right time. Not having the belt anyone takes a load off – it’s a big responsibility. But I don’t feel extra pressure to win after two losses in a row, especially since I don’t feel I lost my most recent bout. Life goes on.
“Losses aren’t the end of the world. They help us mature in unexpected ways. They make us stop and think. There is more learning in losses. In a loss, you get to find out what a champion is made of.”
Never one to indulge in trash talk, Carvalho said he respects his opponent and views him as a unique matchup. He emphasized that even though he’s fought many strikers over the years, every fighter is different.
“I’ve fought many strikers,” Carvalho said. “Everyone has their own style. I don’t have much to say. I don’t know him too well. I leave strategy up to my coaches. I mostly concern myself with training. Of course, I respect my opponent.
“I’ve fought many dangerous strikers – Melvin Manhoef, Joe Schilling. Regardless of Chidi’s style, I simply see myself winning this bout. I just don’t know how yet. Every fight is unique. It starts one day and ends another.”
Will Carvalho walk away the victor Friday night? According to the former champion, there is only one being who can determine his future.
“It’s all up to God,” Carvalho said. “God knows what’s best. It’s in his hands.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
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