RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Rafael Carvalho saw in Lyoto Machida the perfect opportunity to bounce back into the title picture after losing the Bellator middleweight gold to Gegard Mousasi, and he will have that chance in Hawaii.
Set to welcome “The Dragon” to the circular cage in the co-main event of Bellator 213 on Dec. 15, Carvalho admits he was surprised that he was actually given the match since he was in talks with the promotion about facing Alexander Shlemenko, but facing Machida “will be a bigger comeback for me.”
”Defeating someone like him will definitely earn me another shot at the title,” Carvalho told MMA Fighting. “I have to win convincingly. I have to show them I really deserve to fight for the title. I was the champion for three years, so I truly believe that a good win will put me in that position to challenge for the title.”
The middleweight striker has been “sharpening” all of his tools for a well-rounded opponent like the former UFC light heavyweight champion, winning the purple belt ultra-heavy gold at a IBJJF jiu-jitsu tournament in Curitiba this past weekend.
With most of his MMA wins coming by way of knockout, Carvalho revealed he’s working on a different things after losing the 185-pound title to Mousasi in May. He won’t get into specifics, but guarantees he’s not a good match-up for the debuting star.
”I started my camp way before they even gave me an opponent,” Carvalho said. “I spoke with (my coach Andre) ‘Dida’ about changing my style and he agreed, so we’re doing something new this time. I let a few things go and started working on new weapons now. I wanna do new things in every fight now, to show a new Rafael Carvalho. I will show something new in this fight.
”It’s not a good match-up for him. It won’t be good for him,” he continued. “I have a new mindset now. I watched some of my old fights before I came to Bellator, and I had to bring that spirit back. I’m bringing that old Rafael back, but with some new tricks of utmost cruelty. You will see a this 3.2 version of myself on Dec. 15. I will show I deserve to a title shot and will become the middleweight champion again.”
A “new mindset” inside the gym is not the only thing that has changed in Carvalho’s life. His first son, named after him, was born a day before Bellator announced his clash with “The Dragon”, and Carvalho already feels like a different man.
”It gave me more fuel,” Carvalho said. “I was motivated before, but after my son came, I can’t even explain. I couldn’t sleep for several nights, but it felt amazing. You only understand the meaning of true love when you have that little package in your arms.”
Hungry to come back after having a 15-fight winning streak snapped, the 32-year-old Brazilian foresees a long career for him in MMA.
”I always joke that I’m fighting until I’m 55 so I can beat up some young fighters,” Carvalho laughs, “But I believe I’m fighting for more 12 or 14 years. You saw Randy Couture and Dan Henderson beating young fighters. If they can do it, why can’t I? It would be a dream, the best moment of my career, to take my son to one of my fights.”