Rafael Lovato Jr’s story is a reminder that MMA is more than just wins, losses, and titles

Rafael Lovato Jr.
Image Credit: Bellator

The recent headlines in the world of MMA have consisted of: two fighters at the top of their division getting into an argument on Radio Row at the Super Bowl, and an ESPN personality getting ripped for his lack of knowledge on the sport, however, there’s a far greater and more important story happening in the sport, not many are talking about.

This week on Joe Rogan’s MMA Show, Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr. revealed that he’s dealing with a rare brain condition that will have him “retired indefinitely” as he awaits more meetings with doctors to determine his future.

Many may have missed the news from Lovato Jr. because their attention is elsewhere with the aforementioned storylines, and also, not many people might know who Bellator’s middleweight champion is, so here’s some background. Outside of B.J. Penn, Lovato Jr. is the only other American to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship as a black belt, which is just one of the many accomplishments in his grappling career.

Inside the cage for his MMA career, Lovato Jr. is 10-0 as a professional with 6 of those 10 wins coming with Bellator MMA with wins over the likes of Gerald Harris, John Salter, and Gegard Mousasi, who he won the title from back at Bellator 223 in June of 2019. Following his career achievement and biggest win to date, Lovato Jr. was accused of being on steroids by Mousasi, a claim that he has shaken his head at and rejected.

More than just talk about who Rafael Lovato Jr. is and what he’s done in his career, it’s also crucial to discuss that in times where people are questioning people’s knowledge of the sport, there’s more than just what happens inside the cage.

For better or for worse, the rare case and story of Rafael Lovato Jr. is a reality check reminder to those who follow, cheer, and even cover MMA that this sport is far more than just wins, losses, and titles. This sport, in all of it’s glory, asks two men or two women to lock themselves inside the cage, and put their entire body health on the line, only in hopes that they say enough entertaining things on the microphone to make them a star.

In reality, each and every martial artist that steps into the cage, leaves a piece of themselves inside the cage after every fight. While the argument can be made that this is what they signed up for, it’s also what the fans and media have chosen to follow, so it should be respected in the same way.

Rafael Lovato Jr is dealing with a serious condition that could effect his life long after his fighting career is over, and it comes as a real reminder to fight fans, fighters, and everyone in the fight game, that this sport isn’t made for pure entertainment.

When the topics of conversation that raise the popularity of MMA surround who is analyzing fight night cards (Stephen A. Smith at UFC 246), there’s something wrong with the how the sport is covered. Giving respect to the unfortunate situation surrounding Rafael Lovato Jr. should also bring back respect to each and every fighter in MMA, because there’s much more to the sport than the performances and final results in the cage.

Here’s to sending the best to the Bellator MMA champion, Rafael Lovato Jr and credit to Bellator for how they’ve handled the situation.

This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 2/5/2020