Rafael Lovato Jr. on immediate rematch with Gegard Mousasi: I wouldn’t blame them

LONDON – Newly minted Bellator middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr. fought back tears when speaking about the title he took from Gegard Mousasi at Bellator Europe 3.

“It’s hard to put into words,” he told reporters, including MMA Junkie, backstage at The SSE Arena. “It really is my life’s work, and everybody that’s had the biggest piece of my life were here – just a couple were missing.

“I dreamed of it this way. I was telling myself backstage that this would be my masterpiece.”

There certainly were moments Lovato (10-0 MMA, 6-0 BMMA) didn’t envision, such as a fourth round in which Mousasi (46-7-2 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) punished him with strikes on the feet. Yet the jiu-jitsu champion’s grappling helped win the day, and a second wind allowed him to reestablish control in the fifth and final round to take home a majority decision.

A judge who scored the contest a 47-47 draw prompted the question of whether Lovato Jr. might entertain an immediate rematch with Mousasi, who defended the belt this past September with a rout of welterweight champ Rory MacDonald. The new middleweight champ didn’t shoot down the idea, but he said rest and recovery will take precedent.

“If that’s what they want to do, I can’t blame them,” Lovato Jr. said. “It was an extremely close fight, and it is Mousasi. It was a seven-month training camp. I grinded so hard this year. … I’m off to Spain with my love, and it’s time to sit by the pool.”

Following a career of titles in jiu-jitsu, Lovato Jr. now adds another prestigious honor in his still-young MMA career. The multi-sport champion said he won’t be trying any other sports before he stops competing.

“Right now, the mission is to keep this thing over my shoulder and around my waist for as long as possible, and for sure, this is how I’m riding out into the sunset,” he said. “We’ve worked our whole lives for this, and I want to keep enjoying the moment and taking the momentum even further. But this will be how I end my professional career.”

Now, Lovato Jr. starts this chapter of his career as a champion of a major MMA promotion.

“It’s extremely surreal,” he said. “I always envisioned having a fight like that, a complete war, coming down to the wire, bringing out the best in me. It was the best way it could possibly go against a legend like that. I was a big underdog. A few people believed in me… and we did it.”

For complete coverage of Bellator Europe 3, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

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