Lovato Jr. Puts MMA Career On Hold

Put in an unfortunate situation, Bellator Middleweight Champion Rafael Lovato Jr. announced that he is currently suffering from a brain condition. Speaking on the Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show this week, Lovato Jr. stated the condition is called cavernoma, something that is forcing him to put his MMA career on hold.

According to John Hopkins Medicine, a cavernous malformation (or CM) can be a hereditary disease that results in an abnormal amount of capillaries and tiny blood vessels periodically bleeding. The bleeding ultimately gives rise to lesions in the brain and spinal cord. Surgery is not normally needed, but a microsurgical resection can be used to treat CM.

Lovato (10-0) talked about the abnormal situation, including the fact that something felt wrong while training. His scans weren’t cleared initially, which confused the 36-year-old.

“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,” Lovato stated, via Sherdog. “It looked like something was wrong – it didn’t look like 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.”

This was prior to his title shot against now-former champion Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 223 in June. The fight was initially meant to take place at Bellator 214, but a brain scan showed a case of cavernoma that was “popcorn-sized” around the edge of his brain. One was estimated to be the size of a golf ball and baseball. During the middle of all this, Lovato received advice from multiple medical professionals, who either told him not to fight or, like a medical professional in Brazil stated, it was possible to continue.

“He said, ‘There is no studies that say getting hit in your head is going to make your cavernoma worse or cause you to bleed and something is going to happen,’” Lovato went on to say. “He said, ‘You could bleed, you could be oozing blood at any point in time, little by little. It could become an issue at some point in time. But there is no treatment. We’re not going to do surgery. There’s nothing that’s going to happen until you have symptoms, until you show signs. Because I can’t find any studies that say getting hit in the head is going to make it worse, and because you a normal, healthy, functioning person at this point, I think it’s fine for you to fight. You should continuing doing what you do until it becomes a problem. And if it does become a problem, we’ll go in there and take it out.’”

Lovato was supposed to fight Mousasi in a rematch at Bellator 238 on January 25. However, the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC)) declined the bout. This leaves Bellator in a sticky situation, as he holds a title with the promotion. They are currently working on a way to fix the title scene, while also being respectful to Lovato.

”Bellator is being very kind with time,” Lovato continued. “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.”

The last line is something to remember. Lovato is putting his career on hold, to find a way to heal himself to be 100%. That does not mean he is not quite done with the sport.

“I’m not officially retiring. I am indefinitely on the sidelines right now,” said Lovato. “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.

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