Former Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr had quite a sad ending to his mixed martial arts career, as he was forced to retire following his claim of the title due to a rare brain condition called cerebral cavernoma.
Lovato was nearly pulled from his title fight with Gegard Mousasi back in 2019 but was ultimately given clearance to fight. However, after further review, he was forced to vacate his belt due to the fact that no doctors would clear him to fight again.
But it appears he didn’t have too much of an issue getting cleared to fight in Japan, as he did on December 28, 2022.
Lovato returned to action at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye X Ganryujima to face fellow undefeated Taiga Iwasaki (8-0) and picked up a first-round submission (kimura) victory in his first fight in over three years, marking the first time he’d ever competed in a ring.
— YalaB (Mateusz Rębecki Fan Account) (@wolajustowska) December 28, 2022
The former world champion stated that he’s open to fighting again in the future as well, which is very exciting.
Lovato laid claim to the Legacy FC middleweight championship in just his third professional fight, and he defended it a single time prior to joining Bellator’s roster. In just his second professional bout, Lovato also submitted (rear naked choke) 4-1 Kevin Holland in the opening round.
Then, once he joined Bellator, Lovato rattled off five-straight victories, defeating UFC veterans Mike Rhodes (rear naked choke) and Gerald Harris (armbar), before submitting longtime top five middleweight talent and former title challenger John Salter (rear naked choke), a win that’d grant him his title shot.
Lovato then outgrappled a true great in Gegard Mousasi to a majority decision victory to win the Bellator middleweight championship. It’s too bad he was forced to leave the sport following this win, because there’s no telling what more he could’ve done.
Nonetheless, the 39-year-old former champion defied the odds in his return last month, improving his record to 11-0 with nine finishes in the process. What a beautiful swan song he had in 2019, and what an epic comeback he completed at the years end.
Lovato is one of the greatest grapplers to ever compete in MMA, and his striking also came quite a long way in a short period of time. Standing 6’3” with a reach of 77.5”, he’s been a serious problem for all 11 opponents he’s ever fought.
Rafael Lovato Jr Career Accomplishments:
- Legacy FC middleweight champion (one defense)
- Bellator middleweight champion
- Undefeated mixed martial artist
- World Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medal (2007)
- World Jiu-Jitsu Championships silver medal (2008)
- Six-time World Jiu-Jitsu Championships bronze medal (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014)
- Three-time World No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medal (2010, 2011, 2013)
- World No-Gi Jiu-Jitsu Championships silver medal (2012)
- Two-time Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medal (2007, 2008)
- Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Championships silver medal (2010)
- Two-time Pan American Jiu-Jitsu Championships bronze medal (2009, 2012)
- Two-time European Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medal (2007, 2022)
- No-Gi World Cup gold medal (2011)
- Two-time Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championships gold medal (2007, 2013)
- Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championships silver medal (2010)
- Two-time Brazilian National Jiu-Jitsu Championships bronze medal (2010, 2013)
- 4th-degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
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I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.