Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

Bellator MMA champion relinquishes title due to possible brain condition

LOS ANGELES — Unbeaten Rafael Lovato Jr. is relinquishing his Bellator middleweight title due to health concerns.

LOS ANGELES — Unbeaten Rafael Lovato Jr. is relinquishing his Bellator middleweight title due to health concerns.

The 36-year-old MMA fighter from Oklahoma told the Joe Rogan Experience podcast last month that a brain scan had led to a diagnosis of cavernoma, which involves a cluster of abnormal blood vessels in the brain or spinal cord. Lovato said he believes the disease could be hereditary.

A subsequent MRI and visits to specialists followed, with most saying fighting would be dangerous for him.

Lovato (10-0-0) defeated former champion Gegard Mousasi to win the 185-pound title at Bellator 223 in London in June 2019. 

"My journey with my team and family to become the Bellator middleweight world champion was incredible and something I will cherish forever," Lovato said in a statement Monday. "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."

Bellator said it will announce plans for the vacant middleweight title in the coming days.

"This has been an incredibly challenging time for Lovato Jr., his team and his family at home," said Bellator president Scott Coker. "He is a true warrior of the sport and I cannot say enough about him for making such a difficult decision.

"His health is the priority for us and we will continue to work with him on addressing the next steps in his career."

In other news, Bellator announced it has re-signed welterweight champion Douglas Lima (32-7-0) and flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0-0) to multi-fight contracts.

Lima defeated Canadian Rory MacDonald last October to win the 170-pound title.

 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 10, 2020.

The Canadian Press