Rafael Lovato Jr. won the Bellator MMA Middleweight Championship with a majority decision win over Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 223.
However, it could be a long time before Lovato Jr. defends the title or competes in MMA in any form, as the fighter recently revealed that a brain scan before Bellator 223 revealed a brain condition.
“I could sense something was going on,” Lovato said on The Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show (via Mike Bohn of 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. 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. was eventually diagnosed with a hereditary condition known as cavernoma, which could require treatment and surgery in the future.
The champ has been warned by doctors to not fight anymore, but Lovato Jr. also isn’t planning on retiring at this time.
“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. I’m not officially retiring. I am indefinitely on the sidelines right now. 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.”
Bellator MMA issued the following statement to MMA Junkie about the situation surrounding the middleweight champion:
“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.”