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UFC middleweight Rafael Natal retires from MMA at 34

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Rafael Natal retires at 34 after fifteen years of professional fighting.

MMA: UFC on Fox 18-Natal vs Casey
Rafael Natal
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After 15 years as a professional MMA fighter and 31 bouts under his belt, UFC veteran Rafael Natal has called it a career. The 34-year-old announced the news on the MMA Hour.

As Natal said during the show, he put a lot of thought into the decision and will now focus on coaching.

"I came here today to announce my retirement from MMA," Natal said. "It was the toughest walk in today to your studio because it is hard to make this announcement, but I talked to my family, my friends, my coaches. That is the time. I have new focus in my career as a coach, so that’s the (right) thing to do in the moment.

"It’s very hard, you know? It was a long journey. I love MMA, I love training, cutting weight, but I had some surgeries before. I'm focused on that 100% in my life, doing this 15 years, so it's time to step back. My mom asked me this a long time ago, and that was a hard decision, but that’'s what we have."

Rafael Natal (21-9-1) made his UFC debut in 2010 and hangs up his gloves with a 9-7-1 UFC record. He was on a three-fight losing skid, with losses to the likes of Robert Whittaker, Tim Boetsch and most recently, Eryk Anders. His last win came in January 2016 when he defeated Kevin Casey via TKO.