Bellator champ Rafael Lovato Jr. reveals career threatening brain condition

Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Lovato recently discovered that he has a brain condition which may force him into retirement.

A recent guest on the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, Lovato revealed that he had been diagnosed with multiple cavernoma, which are clusters of abnormal blood vessels typically occurring in the brain or spinal cord. For the 36-year-old Lovato, his diagnosis involved his brain.

Lovato said that he found out about the cavernoma prior to his title shot against Gegard Mousasi. A brain scan showed multiple cavornoma ranging from popcorn sized to one which he said was estimated to be between the size of a golf ball and a baseball. 

The fight with Mousasi was initially scheduled in California and several doctors declined to clear him. But an injury to Mousasi forced the bout to be rescheduled for later in London. A Brazilian doctor and a panel of doctors from Safe MMA cleared him to fight. Safe MMA is an independent organization that screens fighters in Ireland and the U.K.

He won the fight, becoming the Bellator middleweight champion. Despite the career-defining win, Lovato (10-0) may now be forced to retire, as a doctor involved with Safe MMA, but not on the panel that cleared him, later stated that he shouldn’t have been cleared and wouldn’t likely be cleared again in the future.

“I want to be healthy, whether I get to fight or not. In the meantime, I don’t want to hold up the division,” Lovato told Rogan.

“Bellator is being very kind with time. I understand there are guys that deserve to fight for the title. If they have to set up a fight to determine a new champion, I understand. I’m going to be doing everything to come back, but it’s sort of an indefinite retirement.”

Following news of Lovato’s condition, Bellator officials released the following statement to

“We are working with Rafael Lovato Jr. and his team to assess potential next steps, following the medical issues that he discussed on the ‘JRE MMA Show’ podcast with Joe Rogan today. We commend him for his courage in speaking openly during a trying time in his career, as well as his patience in dealing with a very difficult personal and professional matter. At this time, Lovato Jr. remains the Bellator middleweight champion, and no decision has been made regarding the title or the future of the 185-pound division, until more details about this situation can be gathered.”

Whether or not Lovato is able to ever gain clearance to fight again or not, he appears to be at peace with what he’s achieved and moving forward with his life outside of fighting.

”If it’s really unsafe and I’m not going to get approved, ever, I finally got to a place where I can accept that and I’m going to move forward on with my life, teaching and doing what I do at home.”

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Bellator London highlights: Rafael Lovato Jr. upsets Gegard Mousasi

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Rafael Lovato Jr. reveals career threatening brain condition

(Courtesy of JRE Clips)