Sunday MMA Quick Hits: Rafael Lovato Jr’s Return, Endeavor Mum on White, Khabib Quits?

UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov, UFC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony 2022 Credit: Alex Behunin/Cageside Press

Guess who’s back, back again? Man that’s a played out way to open a column, but after a two week hiatus for the holidays, your Sunday MMA Quick Hits are back in action!

It’s been a wild, wild week in MMA, an often-times depressing one thanks to the Dana White domestic violence issue, Ilia Topuria bar fight, Phil Baroni’s arrest for allegedly killing his girlfriend, and the tragic passing of Victoria Lee — but there were some uplifting stories as well, including Rafael Lovato Jr.’s return to action, that has him open to the right fight in future.

Rafael Lovato Jr. Open to “Enticing” Opportunities

After a health scare forced him into early retirement three years ago, former Bellator MMA middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr. made a successful return to the sport late last month.

Fighting at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye x Ganryujima in Japan on December 28, Lovato improved his professional MMA record to 11-0. The BJJ ace submitted Taiga Iwasaki in his first fight since 2019, when he defeated Gegard Mousasi to claim Bellator’s 185lb title.

Following the win, Lovato made an appearance on on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation, speaking to Jimmy Smith about his return and what comes next.

“I thought so long and hard about just getting one more, and being able to close the chapter on my MMA career, my way,” Lovato said of his return.

As far as future fights, Lovato noted his age, and growing family, but left the door open for another fight. “I just became a father of twins this year. So, I’m at a different stage. But like I said, I still feel good, and if it’s a very enticing opportunity, then I’ll definitely consider it and we’ll see what happens.”

Endeavor remains Mum on Dana White Wife Slap

We’ve covered Dana White’s New Year’s Eve domestic violence incident pretty extensively, from the delay of Power Slap to the rough year 2023 has been for MMA and the UFC as a whole so far. And White has already addressed the subject in his TMZ interview. At this point, it seems the matter will be worked about between Dana and Anne White, and their family. So be it.

One last point to address is just how poorly Endeavor, parent company of the UFC, has handled the situation. After Ari Emmanuel was all over the place, suggesting companies ostracize Kayne West during his very public, racially fueled meltdown late last year, there has been dead silence on the part of Endeavor.

As numerous media outlets can attest, Endeavor has essentially refused to speak on the matter. It’s not a good look, given there is a sheer double standard at play here. The hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed.

Is Khabib Nurmagomedov leaving MMA entirely?

A recent social media post by UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov has tongues wagging.

In the few short years since he hung up the gloves, Nurmagomedov has transitioned to a promoter (Eagle FC) and coach. He’s found success on both fronts, but could the below post be a signal that he’s moving on from the sport? The translation below is via Google Translate.

It has certainly been a very busy and successful year. Take care brothers I hope my decision will only benefit, I hugged you all tightly. Thank you, you have been a big reason for my success in sports.”

Further hints at spending time with family on Khabib’s Instagram story, and a comment from friend Shamil Zavurov, furthered the notion that Nurmagomedov is completely done with MMA.

Tony Ferguson offers to coach Jake Paul in MMA

Well, this one is self-explanatory.