Speaking to MMAFighting, Rafael Carvalho has stated that he will turn down a middleweight title shot, if offered, in order to move up to light-heavyweight for his next fight. Carvalho recently snapped a 2-fight losing streak to Gegard Mousasi and Lyoto Machida with a decision win over Chidi Njokuani at Bellator 224.
“My manager told me they wanted to put me in a (middleweight) title fight next, but I told him I don’t want that. My priority now is to move up a division. I had that in mind already. Even if they do offer me a title shot, I’ll decline. I want to move up to light heavyweight and test myself. I want new challenges.”
Carvalho is the former Bellator middleweight champion and holds the joint record for most title defences alongside Alexander Shlemenko. During this period, he made 3 successful defences of his title before losing to Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 200.
Challenges At Light Heavyweight
Carvalho knows what is feels like to reign over the Bellator 185lb division and, therefore, feels as though he needs to move up a weight class onto bigger and tougher challenges in order to progress.
“I don’t think about becoming middleweight champion anymore, I already know how that feels, I have to test myself in a different weight class now. I believe that, with a specific and professional guidance I’ll perform way better than I used to do at 185.”
If Bellator look to open up a tournament for the light heavyweight division this year then Carvalho is fully on board and respectfully favours himself against his soon to be rivals.
“Not taking anything away from the other athletes, but I think I would do really well. Let’s do it. I spoke with my manager, now I have to wait and see what Bellator says.”
Although he is supremely confident in his ability to mix it with Bellator’s best 205lb athletes, Carvalho knows adjustments will need to be made before he can face the elite in the division. Talking specifically about a fight with current champion Ryan Bader, Carvalho accepts that he needs more time to prepare.
“He’s on a roll, has another fight booked (versus Cheick Kongo on Sept. 7), and I still have to adapt to this new weight, spar with light heavyweights in the gym, so many things will change for me. I have to adapt to the division. Right now I don’t think I’m ready, but down the line, with the right training and preparation, everything will be alright.”
The 185lb limit is not an easy one for Carvalho to make as he missed the mark for his fight with Machida and his last fight with Njokuani was at a 190lb catchweight. It will be interesting to see how Carvalho deals with the extra 20lbs of bodyweight during competition and if he can deal with the size and strength of the bigger athletes.