Jiu-jitsu ace Rafael Lovato Jr. picked up another big win at Bellator 189, but for the first time in his MMA career, the bout went to the scorecards. We asked him for his take on the fight, and what comes next for the talented middleweight.
Bellator MMA has slowly been building an extremely competitive middleweight division, with names like Rafael Carvalho, Gegard Mousasi, Alexander Shlemenko, John Salter, and, of course, Rafael Lovato Jr. Lovato earned his stripes in the jiu-jistsu world first, earning gold at the world, European, Pan-American, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu championships over the years.
Now, he’s made the jump to MMA, and has found success under the Bellator banner.
One of the most fascinating aspects to the mixed martial arts game is that it attracts elite athletes from other sports. Often these athletes can’t resist the temptation and go all in on this MMA thing.
Such is the case for Rafael Lovato Jr.
Cageside Press caught up with the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace to talk about his recent victory at Bellator 189, who he wants next, and more.
Lovato had been running through competition inside the Bellator cage, having finished every one of his professional fights inside three rounds. That is until Lovato faced Chris Honeycutt at Bellator 189. He still picked up the win, but for the first time as a pro, the finish was not forthcoming.
The BJJ wiz clearly dominated every round of the fight but was he satisfied with his victory? “Immediately after I was not happy, I was pretty disappointed,” Lovato said.
“I felt like I had some opportunities that I wasn’t able to capitalize on and I was disappointed it went the distance.”
Lovato added, “After thinking about my performance, I’m happy with it. That’s what I needed, a guy to grind me, try to neutralize my game, and I needed that full 15 minutes.”
Lovato continues to grow as a martial artist despite jumping into MMA well into his 30s; and unlike so many fighters nowadays, he doesn’t have grandiose beliefs.
“For sure I’m looking at the belt,” says Lovato. “Realistically, I’m looking at the second half of 2018, I’m thinking two more fights, three at the very most, and I should have my [title] shot.”
You’ve just got to appreciate someone who is grounded in reality.
So just who would the undefeated Lovato like next?
“Chidi [Njokuani] just got a big win on the same night as me,” said Lovato regarding his next opponent. Lovato also mentioned, “John Salter has been on a huge winning streak. I don’t even know when the last time he lost was.”
Salter is riding a seven-fight winning streak and may just be next in line for a title shot. I have a funny feeling Salter and Lovato will be seeing each other sometime soon. Gold may very well be on the line.
At 7-0 Lovato is starting to open some eyes. One thing that caught my eye last Friday night was just how big Lovato is as a middleweight. Yet he has never missed weight and never looks dehydrated.
“I’m tall for the division,” said the black belt. “I’m not hulking though, I can still fit into size 32 pants.”
The life-long Oklahoma resident has a sense of humor, but in all seriousness, is making 185lbs becoming an issue?
“This was the easiest cut I’ve ever had,” Lovato said. “My body responded so well, I only had to lose four pounds on Thursday [Weigh Ins].”
Lovato has quickly mastered the art of weight cutting. Just as quickly, the middleweight division has become must watch TV for Bellator MMA. As a fan of the sport, it’s truly special to watch an athlete like Lovato grow into a complete mixed martial artist.
Look for the Jiu-Jitsu ace to step back in the Bellator cage sometime in early 2018.