Rafael Lovato Jr. became the Bellator MMA Middleweight Champion when he scored a majority decision win over Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 223. The newly crowned champion would never get a chance to defend the gold due to being diagnosed with a medical condition that has abnormally formed blood vessels in the brain and/or spinal cord.
That medical issue has led to Lovato Jr. not only taking time away from professional MMA, but the fighter has also decided to relinquish the middleweight title.
Bellator MMA issued the following press release on the matter:
BELLATOR MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION RAFAEL LOVATO JR. RELINQUISHES TITLE DUE TO ONGOING MEDICAL ISSUES
LOS ANGELES – Following the medical complications that were publicly disclosed by Rafael Lovato Jr. (10-0) late last month, the Bellator middleweight champion has decided to relinquish his 185-lb world title. The unbeaten Lovato Jr. defeated former champ Gegard Mousasi to win the title at Bellator 223 in London on June 22, 2019.
“My journey with my team and family to become the Bellator middleweight world champion was incredible and something I will cherish forever,” said Lovato Jr. “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.”
“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.”
Bellator will announce plans for the vacant middleweight title in the coming days.
Please visit Bellator.com for more information.
Bellator is a leading global mixed martial arts and kickboxing promotion featuring many of the best athletes in the world. Under the direction of veteran fight promoter Scott Coker, Bellator events take place in major cities worldwide and can be seen on television in over 160 countries to an available audience of over one billion people. In the United States, Bellator can be seen on both Paramount Network and DAZN, the world’s first truly dedicated LIVE sports streaming service. Bellator is comprised of an executive team that includes top industry professionals in television production, live event orchestration, fighter development/relations, venue procurement, sponsorship creation/development, international licensing, marketing, advertising, publicity and commission relations. Bellator is based in Hollywood, Calif. and owned by entertainment giant ViacomCBS, home to the world's premier entertainment brands that connect with audiences through compelling content across television, motion picture, online and mobile platforms.