Rafael Lovato: ‘My Jiu-Jitsu is the Difference Maker’ Heading into Bellator 181

For his Bellator debut this past March against Charles Hackmann, middleweight Rafael Lovato Jr. couldn’t have had a more convincing – albeit surprising – victory.

Primarily known for his world class submission skills, Lovato was able to use his opening striking exchange to pick up the win against Hackmann just 13 seconds into the fight.

“It was a different feeling,” Lovato told MMAWeekly.com. “I’d never imagined it to be so fast. When it was over, I didn’t really celebrate. Once things calmed down and I soaked it all in, obviously I was very happy to make my mark quickly in more than one way with Bellator and just show everyone that I’m here.

“It’s nice to get a finish in another way and show that I have more than one way to finish a fight, and that I can be dangerous and explosive and more tools developing. It was a good start for sure.”

Having gotten to MMA in his 30’s after having made a name for himself in the grappling world, Lovato feels he’s made the right steps to be exactly where he wants to be.

“When I look back on my career in Jiu-Jitsu and the way things unfolded – there were ups and downs, and tough moments, and amazing ones – one of the things I was always thinking of was MMA,” said Lovato. “First it was ‘if’ and then it was ‘when’ and where it would leave me with Jiu-Jitsu and everything else. To this point today I feel like everything is in the right place.

“I have amazing people around me. I just don’t feel like my life could be in a better place. MMA is just so grueling and takes so much out of us with the training, travelling and everything that’s involved in it. I’m really happy that I waited and started my MMA career when I did. I feel like everything is unfolding the right way.”

TRENDING > Conor McGregor Says He Will Knock Floyd Mayweather Out Within 4 Rounds

Lovato (5-0) steps into the Bellator cage for the second time to take on UFC veteran Mike Rhodes (10-4) in a 185-pound preliminary bout on Friday in Thackerville, Okla.

“Mike I believe is going to be my biggest challenge,” Lovato said. “He’s fought some of the best. He has a lot of experience. He’s a former RFA champ, a current Victory champ, and I’m the former Legacy champ, so we kind of have a similar pathway.

“He’s very technical. He doesn’t make too many mistakes. He’s won by knockout. He’s won by submission. He’s shown good wrestling. I believe he is the total package, but I believe my Jiu-Jitsu is the difference maker. When it gets to the ground, I will have a pretty good advantage. I’m expecting a war, but I believe I will be coming out with a finish victory.”

After a return to the grappling world, Lovato is looking to come back to MMA and close out the year in strong fashion.

“Once this fight is over, (ADCC) will turn into my focus, Then I’m hoping to get one more fight before the end of the year and finish out the year 3-0 in Bellator, and put myself in the position as one of the best in my division going into next year,” said Lovato.

Follow MMAWeekly.com on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram