Rafael Lovato Jr. revealed last week on Joe Rogan’s podcast that he has been battling a rare brain condition called “cavernoma,” which manifests as abnormally shaped blood vessels in the brain or spinal cord. The diagnosis had already taken a toll on Lovato Jr.’s fight career, and now, he’s opted to let someone else take his place as the Bellator Middleweight Champion.
Lovato Jr. has vacated the title, which he won last June after defeating Gegard Mousasi. In a report about the development from MMA Junkie, he said this about his choice to relinquish the title:
“My journey with my team and family to become the Bellator middleweight world champion was incredible and something I will cherish forever. 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.”
Lovato Jr. is a highly accomplished jiu-jitsu athlete and coach in addition to his work in the MMA world. He just recently opened his new location for his academy in Oklahoma City.
As of now, the news is still fresh, and no matchup for the now-vacant middleweight title has been made. The Jiu-Jitsu Times will continue to provide updates on Lovato’s future within MMA as they become available.