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Rafael Lovato Jr. praises Gegard Mousasi: ‘I want to defeat a legend to win the belt’

Bellator MMA

Rafael Lovato Jr. knows that Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi is the toughest test of his unbeaten career, but he wouldn’t want to fight for a championship belt under any other circumstances.

The jiu-jitsu legend puts his 9-0 unbeaten run in MMA on the line when he challenges for the belt in the main event of Bellator London on Saturday night and he underlined that he wants to face a legend to cap off his spectacular run in the sport thus far.

“He’s by far the best I’ve fought,” Lovato Jr. told MMA Fighting’s Eurobash podcast.

“He’s solidified himself as one of the best of all time in his weight class, 100 percent. I’ve been watching him for a long time and I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. I feel like I’ve been climbing ever since the beginning, every fight I’ve fought has been a jump up in competition. Every [opponent] had a lot more experience than me and I’ve been the underdog. I feel this is the mountain and he’s the mountaintop; he’s the peak. For me, it’s beautiful, it’s perfect because I wouldn’t want to take one little step up to get to the top of the mountain.”

“I want to defeat a legend to win the belt,” he added. “That’s the way it should be; it should be the biggest test to get that belt. It’s perfect and it’s an honor to fight someone I have so much respect for and who carries himself like a martial artist the way he does.”

Although he has shocked many with his grasp of the striking arts since transitioning into the sport, Lovato Jr. is under no illusions as to who owns the striking advantage going into the contest, but highlighted that the threat of a takedown could stifle Mousasi.

“It’s an MMA fight so…if it was a pure kickboxing match I’d probably be a little more nervous than what I am now. But you see it all the time, great kickboxers have way better striking than their opponents, who may be grapplers, but once the threat of a takedown is there, things happen. We’re wearing little gloves, but it’s not like I’m going out there with a mindset like, ‘I’m going to knock him out’, or anything like that, but the goal is different,” he explained.

“The goal is to find the right opportunity, keep it close and mix everything up as well as I possibly can. I just want to be the best version of myself, I don’t really go in there comparing our striking skills; I’m comparing our mixed martial arts skills. Once again, he’s got fantastic skills, but I don’t need to just wrap my head around going in there and boxing and kickboxing with him. Just like he has a great jab, I have at least the threat of being able to take him down that he could be worrying about, and that can change things.”

The jiu-jitsu legend refused to rank what the Bellator title would mean to him in comparison to his jiu-jitsu honors, but maintains the MMA belt would be a “more complete representation” of his martial arts journey at this stage of his life.

“It’s really hard to put a rank on it. Jiu-jitsu was my first passion, my first dream was to become a black belt world champion, so it’s hard for me to say that this is going to mean more to me personally than that. In the end it’s another dream and I’m in a different stage in my life. Obviously, at this stage in my life, winning another jiu-jitsu title would not mean the same to me as this,” he said.

“Now, this is everything for me. The way this puts together my whole life is something that jiu-jitsu alone cannot do because that’s just one element. This is everything. In my corner, I have every martial arts teacher that I’ve ever had in my life—they’re all going to be there. It’s a more complete representation of my life’s work and career-wise, it will be the biggest night of my career.”

Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Rafael Lovato Jr. interview begins at 13:00.