Rafael Lovato Jr. is undefeated in the MMA cage at 10-0.
But now, he faces the biggest opponent of his life.
On Feb. 10, it was revealed that Lovato, whose career as a mixed martial artist is on hold, has been forced to vacate the Bellator MMA Middleweight Championship, citing a brain condition.
Lovato, who has held middleweight championships in Legacy Fighting Championships (a precursor to the current Legacy Fighting Alliance) and Bellator MMA, suffers from cerebral cavernoma.
Cerebral cavernoma is a hereditary and non-malignant tumor in a person’s brain.
Symptomology of this tumor includes the slowing of blood flow through the cavity.
In the case of cerebral cavernoma, when a malformation is in contact with a person’s cerebral cortex, the patient runs the risk of suffering epileptic seizures, strokes and hemorrhages.
Cerebral cavernomas have no tissue inside the tumor’s walls and thus have no protection, changing in size with time.
On a recent MMA-themed episode of comedian Joe Rogan’s podcast, the now-former champion had this to say:
“I could sense something was going on. The radiologist, with really no candor or an easy or soft way of saying it, was like, ‘Dude, have you seen your brain before? There’s some stuff in here you need to see.’”
Lovato went onto mention that after some further research by his doctor, the diagnosis of cavernoma was made and he was advised not to fight ahead of his scheduled contest against Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 223—eventually receiving the go-ahead to fight from a Brazilian neurologist.
Lovato defeated Mousasi last June to run his winning streak to 10 before taking a leave of absence and vacating the Middleweight championship.
At the time of the diagnosis of cavernoma, Lovato’s condition wasn’t life-threatening.
Rafael Lovato Jr. first broke into the mixed martial arts scene with a 4-0 stint in Legacy Fighting Championships, including a stint as its Middleweight champion in 2016, having won all of those fights by either submission or TKO.
After, he made his Bellator MMA debut in Mar. 3, 2017’s Bellator 174 against Charles Hackmann in a 195-lb. catchweight fight, defeating Hackmann by first-round TKO just 13 seconds into the match.
He then followed it up in Bellator 181 that July with a first-round rear-naked choke submission against Mike Rhodes.
At 6-0, Lovato fought to a decision for the first time in his career, winning against Chris Honeycutt in Bellator 189 on Dec. 1, 2017 to run the winning streak to seven fights.
After successive submission wins against Gerald Harris and John Salter, the then-9-0 Lovato challenged Mousasi in Bellator 223 in London last June, scoring a majority decision victory to claim the Middleweight belt.
On behalf of all of us at Armchair, best wishes to Rafael Lovato, Jr.
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