Israeli UFC fighter Natan Levy coming to Temple Israel


Natan Levy proudly shows an Israeli flag before his matches. (Amy Kaplan)

Jordan Palmer, Chief Digital Content Officer

Just hours before entering the octagon in Charlotte, N.C., Jewish Israeli UFC Lightweight fighter Natan Levy learned that the preparation, training, and mental discipline he used to prepare for his match Saturday night against another fighter named Pete Rodriguez was for nothing. The match was canceled.

This is the second time Rodriguez has withdrawn from a scheduled bout with Levy, who was riding a two-match win streak and was favored against Rodriquez.

So, what it’s like for him to climb into a cage and engage in one-on-one combat? What’s it like to put in all that work, only to have your opponent back out? Those are questions a St. Louis audience will be able to ask Levy, in person, on Wednesday night, May 17, at Congregation Temple Israel.

The St. Louis Shinshinim, the four teenage Israeli emissaries who deferred their army service for a year to volunteer in the St. Louis Jewish community, are hosting Levy as their guest for an evening of storytelling, Q&A and a Krav Maga seminar.

“Athletes and competitions are a huge part of Israeli society. Everybody in Israel loves soccer, basketball and many other sports,” said Guy Dobrin, 19, one of the Shinshins here. “Seeing elite Israeli athletes is not a common sight, especially in leagues like UFC. This is why we thought it could be inspirational for the St. Louis community to hear Natan’s story. Reaching the heights he has is incredibly hard. Maybe his story will inspire the youth to persist on their path to success, whether in sport or any other field.”

Meet Natan Levy

Natan Levy is no stranger to fighting. After moving to Israel from his native France as a boy, Levy would often tangle with kids picking on him because of his accent.

Natan Levy has up to three training sessions per day. (Rudy Plaza)

But this aggressive prowess has helped some of his wildest dreams come true, silencing plenty of doubters along the way.

In 2021 Levy became only the third Israeli to sign on with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization.

Born in Paris to a traditional Jewish family, Levy’s parents divorced when he was 4 years old. His mother asked him and his two brothers where they wanted to live, Paris or Herzliya, Israel, where they had previously lived for a period. The boys chose Israel. Levy was about 5 when he made the move.

“I was kind of traumatized by the divorce and my dad not being around anymore,” Levy told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2021, “so I would just fight all the time. I also had a French accent, so kids would make fun of me, which would lead me to attack them. I fought at least once every recess.”

With time, Levy learned to funnel his aggression through martial arts. By the age of 18 he received his black belt in karate.

In the news

Last December, Levy made news when he inserted himself into the week’s long Kanye West antisemitism episode.

“Kanye West, if you’ve got a problem with me or my people, come see me, bro,” Levy said during an interview in December following a victory at UFC Orlando.

“I think life is too short to hate, so to all these hateful people it sucks for you, I pity you,” he said, when asked for his reaction to the recent controversies surrounding West, who now goes by Ye, and NBA star Kyrie Irving.

“I am Jewish, it’s what I am, it’s what I was born,” Levy said during his post-fight interview. “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 antisemitism. I won’t stand for any racism — not around me. Don’t bully anybody around me, or I’m going to find you.”

Natan Levy in St. Louis
When: Wednesday, May 17th at 6:30-8 p.m.
Where: Temple Israel, 1 Rabbi Alvan D. Rubin Drive
How much: Free
More info:  Come in comfortable clothes. Light Israeli refreshments will be served.