Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr. reveals he has a rare brain condition, career on pause

Rafael Lovato Jr.
Image Credit: Bellator

Rafael Lovato Jr. doesn’t know if he will fight again.

The 36-year-old has not fought since his upset win over Gegard Mousasi to win the Bellator middleweight title in June of 2019. He’s 10-0 as a pro recently discovered he has a problem that went undetected because he often fought with commissions that didn’t require brain scans. But, when he needed one for the Mousasi fight, that is when he realized something is wrong.

“I could sense something was going on,” Rafael Lovato Jr. said on the “JRE MMA Show” podcast (via MMA Junkie). “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.’ He pulls me into the room and shows me on the screen, pointing out what looked like little balls. It looked like something was wrong – not a normal scan. But I don’t know – like shades of discoloration. You could see that it wasn’t normal. He didn’t even know what it was at the time.

“I go back and he tells me that he did some research and he believes I have a disease called cavernoma,” Lovato Jr. continued. “He hits me with that. I had no idea what cavernoma was. He said, ‘Look, I’m not signing this paper. You need to go see a specialist and get looked at. But as far as I know, you should not fight. You should not be fighting.’”

Lovato Jr. says after speaking with doctors he found out the rare brain condition is hereditary and is not life-threatening. Yet, there are problems with it and the middleweight champ has been told he will not be cleared to fight in Europe.

“He’s very adamant that I should not continue fighting,” Lovato said. “He says it was a mistake that I was able to fight in London. And, moving forward I will not be approved in Europe again. At this point, Europe is a no.”

With Lovato Jr. being uncleared to fight in Europe, he is uncertain about his fighting future in North America. So, the middleweight champion says his career is on pause as he doesn’t know when he will be able to return to the cage.

“I’m not officially retiring. I am indefinitely on the sidelines right now,” Lovato said. “I am actively seeing more doctors and working toward learning more about this. Obviously I want to keep fighting. I still have hope that if I can continue to still see more doctors and get more knowledge.

“This is such a rare and unique thing. No one knows too much. I’m getting some people saying, ‘No. No way.’ Then I’ve got these other specialists and people who have dealt with it that go, ‘Yeah, it’s OK.’ It’s indefinite.”

With Rafael Lovato Jr. being out indefinitely whether Bellator decides to strip him and make a vacant title fight is to be seen.

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This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 1/29/2020.