In June 2019, we saw the Bellator middleweight crown be exchanged when Rafael Lovato Jr. scored a monstrous win over Gegard Mousasi.
Looking to defend his title for the second time, Mousasi took on the unbeaten 9-0 Lovato in Bellator 223’s featured attraction. Instead, the 4th degree BJJ black belt wizard in Lovato would snap the Netherlands native’s eight-fight winning streak when he earned the majority decision nod.
What was an incredible victory as is was only amplified by the recent news revealed by Lovato on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast recently.
Despite already having to deal with a hamstring injury going into the fight, Lovato revealed that he was also diagnosed with cavernoma. A condition where blood vessels are abnormally formed. Typically it happens in the brain or spinal cord. In Lovato’s case, it’s in his brain.
Because of this, Lovato had the fear of uncertainty as to whether or not the title fight would be his very last. And having now successfully made it through, he’s going to take some time to sit on the sidelines and try to get healthy. Thus leading to Bellator announcing on Monday that he has vacated his title.
“My journey with my team and family to become the Bellator middleweight world champion was incredible and something I will cherish forever,” Lovato said via the promotion. “I dreamed of having a long reign as champion, but sometimes life has another plan. Bellator has been very supportive during this difficult process, a situation that has never really happened before in our sport.
“I know the division must move on while I am on the sidelines and I wish everyone great fights on their way to that belt. I will be working to come back if it is possible – and if not, life will continue to be amazing for me and I look forward to working with Bellator in another fashion.”
For Lovato, his entire professional MMA career has been spent competing in either Legacy Fighting Championship or Bellator. The latter of which he joined in 2017 and has won six fights since. Four of which have ended via finish (three submissions, one TKO).