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Bellator champ Rafael Carvalho reflects on tough road to the top

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Rafael Carvalho became the Bellator middleweight champion less than four years after his professional MMA debut, and looks back at the tough road to the top ahead of his first title defense in Boise, Idaho, opposite 45-fight veteran Melvin Manhoef.

Since his early life in the Chapeu Mangueira favela in Rio de Janeiro, Carvalho looked up to his older brother, Marcelo Penca. Penca ran a social project for poor kids, but only at age 7, Carvalho started to care about martial arts. Between jiu-jitsu and muay thai, the options available at his brother’s project, the young kid chose to put on the gloves and throw kicks and punches.

Carvalho enjoyed training, but he didn’t want that for his life. In fact, he dropped it for over a decade. When he was 18, Carvalho decided to join the army, and that’s the first drastic change in his life.

(Courtesy of Rafael Carvalho)

“I stayed away from martial arts for years, and returned in 2005 when I joined the army,” Carvalho told MMA Fighting. “That’s when I finally started being serious about it.”

Carvalho imagined a perfect life in the army. Uniform, women, and fighting for Brazil. It took a few weeks for him to realize that it was nothing like he ever imagined.

“I wanted to join the army because I thought it was cool, the uniform and being a patriot, all that,” he said. “I liked it at first, but then I regretted joining the army because it wasn’t like I thought it would be. I was too young, 18 or 19 years old. I was a kid. I thought about women and all that. When I joined the army, I saw that it wasn’t what I thought it would be.”

“In the first weeks as a rookie, they put you in some rough ….View full article

Source:: mma fighting