Israeli UFC fighter Natan Levy won his second fight in the Octagon on Saturday night in Orlando.
Levy went the distance with his opponent, Genaro Valdez—three rounds at five minutes, in front of a raucous crowd at the Amway Center, the home of the Orlando Magic of the NBA.
As he and his entourage emerged from backstage to the cheers of fans, Levy’s walk-up song played from the arena speakers: Led Zeppelin’s 1970 hit, “Immigrant Song.” The title is emblematic of his journey: Levy was born in France in 1991 and grew up in Herzliya. He now resides and trains in Las Vegas.
In Israel, round one began at 2:49am Sunday. But there were many supporters in the crowd. On top of Florida being home of the third most Jews of any U.S. State (behind New York and California), viewers at home saw quick close up glimpses of jubilant fans carrying an Israeli flag.
In the lightweight division (155 lbs.), Levy fought once again in all-blue trunks that matched the hue of the bars and star on the Israeli flag. Sporting a mohawk and chiseled abs, the fight was never out of his control.
After the opening bell, Levy made quick use of his kicks. He kept space even when Valdez tried to close the gap and crowd him. When Valdez attempted to change the fight pace, Levy made smart transitions to grappling on the ground. Even when it appeared that Levy could cede his backside to Valdez, all Valdez could manage to do was land a few tired elbows to Levy’s backside. Levy showed impressive fight intelligence, honed from a strong background in martial arts. He discussed his early days in an interview earlier this year with the Journal.
It was a valiant fight by both Levy and Valdez. And as the final bell of the third round sounded, Levy locked up the victory with a bruising belly-to-back suplex. Both competitors got up immediately and embraced in a respectful hug. When the unanimous decision was read (29-28, 29-28, 30-27), Valdez applauded, even after losing his second match in a row.
Fans watching at home did not see Levy speak from the ring, as ESPN went to a commercial following the official decision.
In a post-fight press conference, Levy, now in a black Venum-brand UFC shirt, appeared unscathed. After commenting about his performance, Levy was asked to comment on the rise in hatred launched at the Jewish people from prominent public figures such as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving. Levy responded with a strike as bold as his roundhouse kicks.
“I think life is too short to hate,” Levy said. “So to all these hateful people you know, sucks for you, I pity you. And other than that, you know Kanye West, if you got a problem with me or my people, come see me, bro.”
He was then asked about the impact of Kanye’s words on Twitter and how it appears to be giving rise to others to spread antisemitism:
“Trust me I’ve noticed it,” Levy said. “I get a lot of ‘lovely’ DMs all the time. I am Jewish, it’s what I am, it’s whatI was born, I’m very proud of it and I will fight for it. I will fight for my people in the Octagon or wherever need be. And I will not stand for anti-Semitism, I won’t stand for any racism— not around me. Don’t bully anybody around me, or I’m gonna find you.”
Video from MMAFighting on SBNation:
And it’s not the first time he took a stand for the Jewish people directly after a fight.
Levy’s previous fight was another unanimous decision: an April 30th bout against Mike Breeden at the much smaller UFC Apex near Las Vegas. After the referee held his arm in victory that day, Levy spoke directly to the crowd and viewers watching at home. In between breaths, he dedicated his victory to the victims of the Holocaust.
“This week was remembrance day for the Holocaust, I would take a minute of silence for every victim we had, but it would take 11 ½ years, I think the broadcast would end before that,” Levy said into the microphone, following his first victory under the UFC banner. “So I will sell my fight kit, the profits will go to Holocaust victims who made it and are still alive today.”
And indeed he did. Levy sold his pre-fight hat and warmups, and fight-worn trunks, gloves and a fight night poster on eBay. The proceeds were all donated to the Foundation for the Welfare of Holocaust Victims (LINK https://www.k-shoa.org/). Founded in 1994, their mission is to “help Holocaust survivors who were saved from the horrors of the war but did not succeed in rebuilding their lives.” Their mission statement continues, “Today in their advanced years, they find it challenging to lead independent lives. Some of them lack the means to buy even the basic needs to live in dignity.”
There is no word yet on when Levy’s next fight will be nor who his opponent will be. But this fight all but ensures that MMA fans will see much more of Levy in the coming months.