Rafael Carvalho  understands what it takes to climb to the top of the mountain.
Carvalho captured the Bellator middleweight title in 2015 when he finished Brandon Halsey. The Brazilian went on to defend the belt three times before falling to Gegard Mousasi .
This past December, Carvalho was looking to bounce back with a win vs. former UFC champion Lyoto Machida , but for the first time in his career, he was on the wrong end of a decision.
Now, Carvalho tries to snap a two-fight losing skid when he takes on Chidi Njokuani at Bellator 224  next Saturday night.
“I knew he would fight like that,” Carvalho told FightLine about the bout vs. Machida. “Waiting for me to attack to catch me by surprise. I think if I accelerated in the third round, I would have knocked him out.
“I respected him too much.”
As for the split decision verdict, Carvalho said “I beat Lyoto, but the judges did not give me the victory.”
Carvalho tied Alexander Shlemenko for the most successful title defenses in the Bellator middleweight division. And Mousasi has since dropped the belt to Rafael Lovato via split decision.
“Great battle,” he said of the Mousasi-Lovato fight. “Both fighters are to be congratulated. Performance like that fans like to watch.”
With a win over Njokuani, who he calls “Chidi is a Bellator top fighter,” Carvalho is hopeful to be in discussion for a title shot. He is looking to fight again in October or November.
“Winning over him hopefully I will be next or after Lyoto’s chance,” he said. “(Njoukani) is very dangerous striker. His kicks I will watch for.”
Bellator 224 features Julia Budd defending her female featherweight title against Olga Rubin live on Paramount Network and DAZN from the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Carvalho vs. Njokuani will serve as the co-main event.