Two months ago, Natan Schulte entered the Professional Fighters League tournament as the dark horse. Two wins over tough competition later, Schulte now leads the lightweight standings with nine points heading into the postseason.
Schulte (13-3) took a unanimous decision win over Chris Wade at PFL 2. He followed up that performance with a first-round submission victory over Jason High on Thursday at PFL 5. He went from perhaps the most overlooked lightweight on the PFL roster to a potential tournament favorite to win the $1 million championship.
“I believe a lot in my style and in my game-plan with my coaches,” Schulte told the media after his win over High. “At the end of the day, my preparation is going to be the same regardless of whether people are overlooking me or they’re paying a lot of attention and looking my tapes and what I do and what I don’t do. But it is what it is. I’m happy to be here. I’m going to keep on doing what I’m doing. No disrespect to my foes in the division but I feel pretty confident in myself.”
The Lightweight Bracket
Schulte finished ahead in the standings against the likes of Will Brooks, Islam Mamedov, Brian Foster, Rashid Magomedov and Wade. In that mix are a former Bellator champion, a former World Series of Fighting title challenger and tournament winner, and multiple former UFC fighters. Schulte doesn’t care that he’s the No. 1-seed, he’s simply focused on winning the tournament.
“Regardless of the position in which I’m in, I’m happy to do it for my country, for the city that I’m from, my parents, for everyone that’s behind me,” Schulte said.
He locked up the top seed with an impressive technical submission rear naked choke over High. Schulte said he was extremely happy and proud with the win and finish, but it was also bittersweet. He considers High a dear friend of his after the two trained together a year-and-a-half ago for four months at American Top Team.
Schulte will advance to the postseason, while High’s dreams of winning a million dollars this year have come to an end.
“I feel like once we get inside the cage, each of us need to chase our own dreams,” Schulte said. “I was chasing mine, he was chasing his. No disrespect, I really like the guy, but once the cage door closes, it’s all business. And once it opens again, we can go on being colleagues and friends.”
Schulte will likely return to competition on the PFL 9 card on October 13. If he wins his quarterfinals bout, he’ll compete the same night in the semifinals. If he wins both fights, he’ll advance to the year-end PFL championship fight on December 31.