Rafael Lovato Jr just made his return to MMA competition after more than three years away from the sport at the annual Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye event in Japan, and he put in a fantastic performance in his comeback fight. Lovato Jr was one of the best grapplers on the planet before he decided to make the transition to MMA in 2014, having already won three IBJJF no gi world championships and reached the podium of the gi world championships on eight separate occasions. He put his grappling skills to good work when he switched to MMA and even managed to develop solid striking along the way, quickly racking up four finishes before signing a Bellator contract.
Lovato Jr then worked his way up the Bellator rankings and managed to put together a 9-0 professional MMA record to earn a title-shot in the Middleweight division. He defeated Gegard Mousasi by Majority Decision at Bellator 223 but was unfortunately forced into an early retirement when he was diagnosed with a Cerebral Cavernoma. The rare brain condition meant that Lovato Jr could no longer fight and he had to vacate his title almost immediately after he had won it, although he was open about his desire to return to MMA at some point in the future.
Things looked unlikely for a long time, and Lovato Jr had not competed in MMA since his fight against Mousasi in 2019. He still kept busy though, returning to grappling in 2020 and coming second in the absolute division at the IBJJF Masters world championships that year. Most of his time that year was spent getting his health in check and building his dream academy at the same time. In 2021 he decided to take competition a little more seriously, and Lovato Jr took on several fellow legends of the sport in superfights for various promotions. He defeated Gabriel Almeida at Fight 2 Win 166, dropped a decision to Gabriel Burns at a Who’s Number One event, and won a close decision against Adam Wardzinski at Raw Grappling 1 among several others.
He rounded things out in 2022 by winning a final gold medal at the IBJJF European Open and having one more run at the world championships before retiring from the competition. He was invited to compete at the ADCC World Championships that same year and really turned back the clock, putting in an incredible performance and finishing fourth in the under 99kg division. Rafael Lovato Jr has now finished 2022 even stronger again by making his comeback to professional MMA against Taiga Iwasaki at the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye x Ganryujima event, submitting his opponent with a Kimura after a little over two minutes of action in the very first round.
The footage of Rafael Lovato Jr winning his MMA comeback at the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye x Ganryujima event was uploaded in a Twitter post to a Roberto de Souza fan account:
— YalaB (Roberto de Souza Fan Account) (@wolajustowska) December 28, 2022