Israeli UFC fighter Natan Levy and his mixed martial arts career

Israeli boxer Natan Levy will fight his eighth professional bout on April 30 in Las Vegas. Despite being a fierce fighter, he focused on the day of the fight by reliving one of his favorite childhood “consolation movies.”

“I always watch a Harry Potter movie before a fight,” Levy told The Wall Street Journal. “Every fight, I’ll watch the next.” So, in the hours before he takes on Mike Breeden in the UFC Octagon, he and wife Dana will be in a hotel room watching the eighth of the series The final and final film “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2”.

At that point, Levy knew he had done all the training he could to prepare him for the fight. Levy’s mind will be on his only loss to Rafa Garcia in November 2021 (via decision ) after getting his first victory. Before that fight, Levy’s professional fighting career had started 6-0.

Looking back, Levy can trace his mixed martial arts career back in his youth. At the age of five, Levi moved to Herzliya, Israel, from France, where he was born, with his mother and two older brothers. Even now, at 30, he still has traces of a French accent. Back on campus, he would argue with classmates who made fun of his accent. Levy was able to take care of his own battle after his older brothers “made him strong”.

When he wasn’t reading Harry Potter books, teenage Levi took up martial arts, but had no discipline. He is not consistent. But at the age of 15, everything changed because he started training karate.

“That’s where I really found myself and started training every day very seriously,” he said. At the age of 16, Levi made his first trip to Okinawa, Japan, the birthplace of karate, where he would spend several months in a training camp that would change his life – training with the masters of his style.

He’s from Israel, doesn’t know anyone in Japan, and doesn’t speak any Japanese. But he found that Okinawans are very warm.

“When I first looked for the dojo, I only had a Japanese address and I got off at the wrong bus stop,” Levy said. “I thought I might be nearby. I just looked around to see where [the dojo] Yes, I showed the address to a lady. She just walked around and took me to her nearby home and told me to get in her car. She drove me 30 minutes to the dojo. She was too good to even communicate other than ‘thank you’. “

The mundane nature of mixed martial arts was obvious to Levy. After returning to Israel, he continued training and became a huge UFC fan. His favorite fighters are Croatian heavyweight Mirko Cro Cop, along with Canadian George St. Pierre and Brazilian Lyoto Machida.

His enthusiasm for the UFC soared when he watched the much-publicized trio of superfights between Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell and “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz in 2004 and 2006. At the time, their second bout was the largest pay-per-view event in UFC history.

Levy will return to Okinawa at the age of 18. There, he would earn a black belt—today, he is a third-degree black belt. After returning to Israel, he started teaching at the trainer’s gym and within a few years opened his own mixed martial arts school. Despite the success of his own career, at the age of 22, Levy still aspires to fight in the UFC. But the people around him warned him not to move hastily.

“A lot of people tell me, ‘Well, you should train in Israel, maybe become a national champion, and then go to America,'” Levy said. “I don’t have a ground competition because I only know karate, so a lot of people tell me ‘you should train in Israel for a few years first, jiu-jitsu, if not a black belt, at least get a brown belt. Then you should try MMA.'”

But Levy sees it as a “now or never” situation. During this time, Levi met his wife Dana while training in karate.

“When we started dating, I told her, ‘Look, I want you to know that in a year, I’m planning to live in America because I want to be in the UFC. If you want us to be together, you need to know that I don’t will stay [Israel],’” recalls Levy. Dana agreed to move to Las Vegas with him.

Levy recalled the advice that warned him not to leave Israel and knew he had made the right choice.

“If I had listened to them, I would still be in Israel waiting for that brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu,” Levy said. “I might as well learn everything from the source, from the purest place. So I closed my business. , fly to Vegas, the fighting capital of the world. Again, don’t know anyone.” He and Dana have lived in Las Vegas for eight years.

There, he met with Coach John Wood, owner and coach of Syndicate Athletic. Levy will continue to learn and master the basics of mixed martial arts, especially ground combat.

“He’s trying not to change us or train us all in the same pattern,” Levy said of Wood. “For him, it’s more about taking advantage of what’s special about you, what you’re good at, rather than trying to change too much. Try to sharpen the tools, but make you different.”

After competing in four amateur bouts in 2016 and 2017, Levy had his first professional bout in 2018 — a yield victory. Four months later, he would win his second race, by using a guillotine choke—this time, the first round took just 29 seconds. Levy ran the distance over the next three races (three rounds of five minutes each). Levy won by submission in the sixth fight in November 2020, but only with two days’ notice as a fighter was eliminated from COVID-19. That’s when UFC president Dana White offered Levy a contract.

White’s words to Levy were brief but encouraging. Although Levy made strides in his first fight under his UFC contract in November 2021, he lost, keeping his current record at 6-1.

Undaunted, Levy continued his training regimen, getting up early and training 3 times a day. He watched some movies of his previous fights, but wasn’t addicted to them. Since then, he has also been well-received by the media.

On his Instagram, if he’s not wearing a Syndicate Athletics shirt, he’s wearing a “Cobra Kai” shirt, or a custom shirt that says “Jew-Jitsu” with the Star of David (or his completely shirtless). He grew up watching “The Karate Kid” movies and said with a sincere smile that he would love to one day have a big screen fight in the “Cobra Kai” series that showcases his karate roots.

Fame and glamour, however, were not on Levi’s mind at all. For Levy, being on the UFC roster is one thing. At the same time, he does recognize the peculiarities of being Israel’s only current UFC fighter.

“If a Jewish kid writes to me and I inspire him to stand up for himself, learn boxing or fitness, it means the world to me.” – Nathan Levy

“For future UFC fighters from Israel, I think I’ve blazed a trail,” Levy said. “To me, it shows that it’s possible, but not just for UFC fighters – everyone has their own fight. I think for Jews, Jewish teenagers, if a fighter says I inspired him, then Great. But if a Jewish kid writes to me and I inspire him to stand up for himself, learn boxing or fitness, it means the world to me.”

Levi’s observance of Passover did not affect his training as his next battle drew near. He’s already keeping an eye on his carb intake so he can make sure to gain weight to compete as a lightweight (between 146-155 lbs). He always competes with the Israeli flag printed on the leg of his trousers.

Levy has come a long way since learning karate in Israel as a teenager. His next fight will be on the road at the MGM Gardens Arena, where the Liddell-Ortiz super fight is located. While his extended family in Israel will be watching his next game on TV, he will have Coach Wood and the Syndicate’s team in his corner. Of course, the two Danas of his life will also be nearby: Dana, his wife of three years, and UFC president Dana White, both watching from the circus.

“They’re all my bosses,” Levy said.

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