Former Bellator Middleweight Champion Rafael Lovato Jr (10-0) took to popular Combat Sports podcast Morning Kombat this past Tuesday to make an announcement to the fight game; He’s not retired. Luke Thomas, the show’s co-host, held up to his reputation and got right to the point asking the Jiu-Jitsu Master about his health and retired life. Lovato Jr, with his signature measured grace began with, “Yeah sure, y’know ‘retired’ is not quite the word I’d like to use. I was sidelined.”
Lovato Jr went on to detail the Hell of finding a Commission to clear him to defend the belt he won from defeating current Bellator Middleweight Champion Gegard Mousasi (47-7-2). After it was discovered that Lovato Jr has Cavernoma in his brain, he was told by Commission and private medical professionals that he was medically unfit to fight and an exit from fighting seemed to be a given thing. Until it wasn’t. The former champ went on to explain that had he known Covid-19 would put everything on a long pause for everybody across the board, he would have done things quite differently. Namely, not give up the strap in the first place.
“So does that mean you might come back?”, Luke Thomas finally asks. Lovato simply returns with, “I’m not giving up Luke.” The former Bellator champ revealed that he got second opinions regarding his condition and found that his Cavernoma wasn’t as life threatening as previously thought. So with Lovato eyeing a possible comeback to the Bellator cage, what’s next for him? Well, as sure as I am that bears sh*t in the woods, I can tell you that the Oklahoma City Jiu-Jitsu Master absolutely deserves a #1 Contender fight, if not a title shot.
Yes, a title shot from the jump! After all, he remains undefeated. But if that seems a little too “T.J. Dillashaw” for ya, we’d all be totally open to seeing the former champ fight a tough contender, right? How does a John Salter (18-4) rematch sound to you? After losing to Rafael Lovato Jr in September 2018 by rear naked choke, Salter hasn’t lost since and has stitched together a three fight win streak. John Salter would present a viable threat to Lovato and answer questions about Lovato’s relevance in the current division.
That being said, It is very likely that this return to the cage is a one-off and more about “unfinished business” with Mousasi. You can feel the former champ seething with intensity when he reveals to Luke Thomas his wishes to defeat Mousasi more convincingly. In the first round of their fight, Lovato controlled Mousasi against the cage and on the ground. Mousasi had a beautiful butterfly guard that neutralized much of Lovato’s attacks but Mousasi nonetheless spent most of the round on his back playing defense.
While the second round went much the same, the third round was back and forth as Lovato repeatedly swept Mousasi’s base out from under him and even secured a body triangle draped on Mousasi’s back. Mousasi reversed Lovato and punished him with ground and pound that opened a cut over Lovato’s left eye. Mousasi, who stole the round, walked away from a bloodied Lovato with an air of contempt seconds before the bell.
The fourth round exposed the disparity in striking skill between the two. Lovato, now exhausted, was being picked apart by a Mousasi that was rapidly losing respect for him. But then something happened. Lovato’s unbreakable will and champion spirit became unleashed in the fifth round. In the gutsiest fifth round rally that I’ve ever seen, Lovato came out the gates with an exactly identical pace that won him the first two rounds. Like a bat outta Hell, Lovato put Mousasi on the ground and rained down top pressure, eventually taking the back and cruising to the end. Lovato won by Majority Decision.
With Mousasi giving Lovato absolutely all he could handle, it’s no wonder Lovato wants their rivalry to end with a rematch. Rafael Lovato Jr clearly wants to submit “The Dreamcatcher” this time but that hasn’t happened since “Jacare” Souza (26-8) beat Mousasi by guillotine choke in 2014, so this is a tall order. I would love to see Rafael Lovato Jr return to the Bellator Cage and end his fighting career on his terms, not Cavernoma’s terms. He proved in his fight with Mousasi that he is a true champion and I’m all in!!! 2021 apparently has great things ahead!