Rafael Natal is headed home for his UFC 143 training. | Photo:
“Sapo” Natal will return to the Octagon on Feb. 4 against
undefeated judo practitioner Michael
Kuiper at UFC
Sherdog.com confirmed the planned matchup with Natal and another
source close to the bout on Tuesday. Brazilian outlet SporTv first
reported the booking.
“The contract is already here and I will sign it today to send it
back to the UFC,” Natal revealed to Sherdog.com. “I know [Kuiper]
is a judo specialist, but [also] had a lot of muay Thai fights and
likes to keep the fight on his feet. I’m so comfortable with my
exchanging skills, and I will be completely ready for him in two
months when the fight comes up.”
UFC 143 is expected to be headlined by a welterweight title bout
between longtime UFC champion Georges
St. Pierre and former Strikeforce titlist Nick Diaz. The
event takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas and
will air live on pay-per-view.
Perfect through 11 professional outings, Kuiper has finished 10 of
his conquered foes by knockout or submission. The 22-year-old
Dutchman has knocked out three consecutive opponents, most recently
Cilfoni on May 7. After fighting seven times to begin his
career in 2009, Kuiper’s pace has slowed considerably in the last
two years, competing just four times total.
Natal recently earned his first Octagon victory by besting Paul
Bradley at UFC 133 on Aug. 6. The win came after dropping his
UFC debut to Rich
Attonito and drawing with Jesse
Bongfeldt in 2010.
After defeating Bradley, “Sapo” underwent surgery on his right
hand, which was broken during the bout. Having previously broken
his left hand, Natal now jovially says his fists are now
“I have this platinum reinforcement on the both hands now. It’s
gonna be an advantage when I hit my opponent,” he said, laughing.
“I’m completely healthy, cleared by the doctors and already
training hard for over a month. I’ve asked my manager to fight on
Super Bowl weekend. This lineup rocks and I’m very happy to [be]
part of that. I will be ready.”
Training at the Renzo
Gracie Academy in New York, the Brazilian says he will make
some changes to his regimen for this camp, including a trip back to
Belo Horizonte, his birthplace.
“I’ll spend the year-end holidays with my family and will train
there,” he explained. “It’s the first time I’ll train for a fight
in Brazil, even [if] it will last only two weeks. I’ll have
Barral training with me and it will be great to have different
teammates, different experiences. Then I will get back [to the US]
in the second half of January.”