Rodolfo Bellato’s 2023 didn’t kick off on a high note. Despite his triumphant return against Ihor Potieria at UFC on ESPN 52, which earned him a $50,000 bonus, his year began on a low.
Bellato, a Brazilian light heavyweight, had a rocky start. “If someone told me in February that 2023 would be the best year of my life, I’d think they were joking,” Bellato shared with Sherdog.com. He was coming off a loss to Vitor Petrino in September 2022, and his UFC dreams seemed distant.
But then, things took a turn. Bellato had a couple of wins under the Legacy Fighting Alliance earlier in the year. Then, he got a second shot on Dana White’s Contender Series in October. This time, he scored a technical knockout victory against Murtaza Talha Ali and earned a UFC contract.
A few weeks later, the UFC asked him to debut against Potieria. Potieria was a formidable opponent who had twice as many fights under his belt and had knocked out Mauricio Rua. “I knew it would be a war,” Bellato admitted, “but I decided that the only way he was going to beat me was to knock me out.”
Bellato credits referee Jacob Montalvo for his victory. Montalvo allowed him to recover when Potieria almost had him defeated. “The first thing I did when the fight was over was thank Mr. Jacob Montalvo,” Bellato said. “He did a great job looking in my eyes the entire time and allowing me to recover, turn the fight and get the bonus in my UFC debut.”
In preparation for his UFC debut, Bellato trained with Glover Teixeira and Alex Pereira in Connecticut for over a month. He disagrees with Alistair Overeem’s recent statement that “Poatan” will not be a long-reigning champion.
Overeem had claimed that other fighters would find holes in Poatan’s game. Bellato countered, “The fact is that he faced the toughest guys of both divisions, former champions, and they were not able to find [them]. What I can say is that ‘Poatan’ is such a badass. The guy is a master in using distance, and [he] punches and kicks really hard.”
Bellato also praised Poatan’s training style and personality. “He knows how to train without hurting anyone. Also, he helps you all the time to improve your skills. Spending this time with him and Glover was such a wonderful experience that I intend to repeat in my next camp.”
As for his future in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, Bellato isn’t rushing to choose his next opponent. “I’m just arriving,” he said. “I’m aware that I need a couple of more wins before I start to call out ranked guys, but one guy I really want to fight in the future is Vitor Petrino, who is responsible for the only two losses on my career. I really hope we can make that trilogy in the future with the winner getting close to the title.”