Rafael Lovato Jr. is back from retirement.
The former Bellator middleweight champion made a successful return to MMA Wednesday after putting his career on hold three and a half years ago due to cavernoma, a brain condition.
Lovato (11-0) submitted Taiga Iwasaki (8-1) with a kimura in the first round of their 195-pound contest. The fight took place at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye 2022 in Tokyo.
Watch video of his submission finish below.
Lovato walked away from MMA after winning the Bellator middleweight title, taking it away from then champion Gegard Mousasi in a majority decision in the main event of Bellator 223 in June 2019.
Following the title win, Lovato was diagnosed with cavernoma, a condition involving “abnormally formed blood vessels,” typically in the brain or spinal cord, according to the Mayo Clinic. Due to the potential health risks, the standout grappler relinquished his Bellator title and said he was going to focus on his health, likely never to fight again in MMA.
Lovato, now 39, remains unbeaten in his professional MMA career and holds notable wins over fighters such as Mousasi, Kevin Holland and Gerald Harris. He’s also a jiu-jitsu black belt under Saulo Ribeiro and a multiple time grappling world champion.