Israeli UFC fighter Natan Levy is ready to rumble

As a proud Jew and Israeli, Levy is the third Israeli fighter in the UFC.
Natan Levy holds an open training session during the Noche UFC Open Workout at UFC APEX on August 30, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

This Saturday night, Natan Levy, 32, with a record of 8-1, will face Mike Davis (10-2) at UFC Fight Night 239, which will stream on ESPN+. The 5-foot-9, 155-pound southpaw is known for his devastating kicks and his ability to submit opponents.

In Levy’s last bout, he secured a unanimous decision victory over Genaro Valdez on Dec. 3, 2022. Since then, one of his fights was canceled when his opponent failed to make weight, and another was called off when Levy had a medical issue.

Saturday night’s fight will mark his first appearance in the octagon since Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Oct. 7, 2023.

“Obviously, it was hard on me and hard on everyone,” Levy shared with Unpacked. He said that, like most people, he thinks about that day and the ongoing war, but his profession demands his undivided attention.

“When I’m training or I have a fight, I have to focus,” Levy said.

Read more: 4 Jewish mixed martial arts fighters you should know

Levy is not afraid to speak his mind

Levy doesn’t mince words. When Kanye West made a string of antisemitic statements, Levy was one of the first Jewish public figures to respond. After West pledged to go “death con 3 on Jewish people,” Levy openly challenged him, saying, “Kanye, if you have a problem with me or my people, come see me.”

Watch Levy’s response to Kanye West:

Levy also confronted a neo-Nazi sympathizer online who expressed support for antisemite and white supremacist Nick Fuentes. In an unusual move, Levy invited the individual to his gym for a fight, stating in the online video that he would not use full force against him. He taught him a lesson that words matter.

Watch Levy’s confrontation with the neo-Nazi sympathizer:

“I’m not fearless, but I speak up for what is right,” Levy told Unpacked.

Despite receiving antisemitic comments online, Levy also receives positive messages from supporters.

He has 152,000 followers on Instagram, where he proudly displays a Jewish star next to his name and recently posted a graphic of a Magen David with the phrase: “The more they hate us, the more I’m proud to be [Jewish].”

As a proud Jew and Israeli, Levy is the third Israeli UFC fighter, following in the footsteps of Moti Horenstein and Noad Lahat.

When it comes to expressing Jewish identity, Gen Z and all Jews should do what they think is right

In light of increasing antisemitism and concerns, particularly among college students, about displaying symbols of Jewish identity, Levy believes individuals should make their own decisions.

“If someone wants to wear a Star of David on their neck that’s fine,” Levy told Unpacked. “But people should do what’s right for them. What you have on the inside is the most important thing. So, if someone has a Star of David inside their heart, that’s what matters most.”

“We shouldn’t be scared to defend our country”

On Oct. 22, 2023, while in Israel, Levy was interviewed by Michael Knowles, a conservative host for The Daily Wire.

“We shouldn’t be scared to defend our country and defend our values,” Levy told Knowles. Levy also expressed his hope that the hostages safely return to Israel.

He also said that in previous situations, despite rocket attacks from Hamas, Israel did not retaliate because it seeks peace.

“We don’t want a war, we don’t want people to die,” he said in that interview, adding that in the Middle East, “the shark smells the blood in the water” if there are any signs of weakness.

Levy’s career was sparked by bar mitzvah savings

Born in France, Levy moved to Israel as a child and grew up in Herzliya. He later relocated to Las Vegas to pursue a career in martial arts. He made a significant impact in Dana White’s Contender Series 35 by defeating Shaheen Santana with a triangle choke submission. Following this victory, Dana White, the president of the UFC, announced that Levy would be signed to the organization.

When I interviewed him at that time, Levy shared that he was inspired by the phrase “chaos is a ladder” from the hit series “Game of Thrones,” and he learned the importance of always being prepared.

“With the pandemic going on, I knew I could either sit around, binge-watch Netflix, and get out of shape,” Levy told me then. “But instead, I trained every day; even when my gym was closed, I went to the park to make sure I was ready.”

He also said that when he was 16, he used money saved from his bar mitzvah gifts to buy a plane ticket to Japan to study karate. He became a third-degree black belt and added wrestling and other disciplines to his arsenal, enabling him to compete at the high level of the UFC.

A fighter’s pride and humility

Levy often showcases his pride in his heritage by draping an Israeli flag around his shoulders after victories, as seen after his win against Ben Lugo:

He is also humble. When he accidentally kicked Valdez below the belt in a fight, he put his hands together and nodded down in apology. But he is confident in his abilities.

When asked about his prediction for Saturday night, Levy’s response was straightforward: “Winning no matter what,” he told Unpacked.

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