Bellator 189 “Budd vs. Blencowe 2” takes place Dec. 1, 2017 at WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Okla. The Featherweight title is being defended in the main event by Julia Budd (10-2) as she takes on rival Arlene Blencowe (10-6) for the second time.
The 185 pound division also has some strong action in store for Thackerville as undefeated jiu-jitsu specialist Rafael Lovato Jr. (6-0) takes on “The Cutt” Chris Honeycutt (10-1, 1 NC) in a bout scheduled for the main card between two future contenders.
Today MMA Mania talks to Rafael Lovato Jr. about his preparation for an important Middleweight contest Friday night live on Spike TV.
“Aw man I’ve had an incredible camp. I feel like this is maybe the best camp I’ve ever had. You know I’ve kind of stuck with the same routine. I spent some time with my muay thai coach, my muay thai teacher Mauricio Amado in Toronto, Canada just like I’ve always done. I also spent a couple of weeks in Curitiba, Brazil with his brother Andre Dida and the Evolucao Thai team there in Curitiba.”
That’s a lot of frequent flyer miles for just one fight but Lovato insists it’s necessary to keep himself sharp and continue to impress in Bellator.
“I love going down there because it’s completely out of my comfort zone, 100% focused on training, just ‘Rocky’ style you know eat sleep and train and far far away from home. (It’s) really intense training down there, lots of sparring, lots of tough guys, lots of guys my size and bigger. That is something I’ve done for every camp, spent time with each of those guys.”
It doesn’t even end there as Lovato added a little something extra this time to change it up.
“I also did something a little different this camp and I went to Miami, Florida for a week as well in the very beginning of my camp to work with a very special guy. His name is Cameron Shayne, and he is a free form movement specialist. He did a lot of mobility and recovery for my body, to kind of kick things off going into this camp, and it went really well. I’ve had great work here at home in Oklahoma with all my guys and my school, Lovato Jiu-Jitsu MMA in Oklahoma City, so I’m feeling amazing, my body’s responded very well, technically I’ve never felt more dangerous.”
Long before Lovato was running up an undefeated streak in MMA he was winning gold medals in jiu-jitsu competitions around the world. Lovato says he’s just a chip off the old block.
“That would be my father, (he) is a lifetime martial artist as well. He’s had me moving and training ever since... ever since ever since! I don’t remember a day where I started — it’s just always been there. We’ve always had a system of searching out the best of each range of combat and learning from those people and that led us to jiu-jitsu. Once we found jiu-jitsu we fell in love with it. We became the first American father and son jiu-jitsu black belts and that’s what I devoted my life to.”
After so much success and dominance in jiu-jitsu, becoming only the third American to win the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (a list that includes B.J. Penn), why give it up to pursue MMA?
“It was always my plan to do MMA at some point, and maybe I took a little longer than what I thought I would, but I feel like it all happened at the right time. I have no regrets. I didn’t leave jiu-jitsu early and kind of feel torn between the two. I did everything I ever could have wanted and could have tried to do in jiu-jitsu, and once I felt like the motivation wasn’t there the way it used to be I made my way into MMA and that made me feel young and extremely motivated all over again. I’m just taking it one step at a time and now here we are.”
Lovato admits he didn’t expect that one step to come so quickly in his Bellator debut, a TKO win over Charles Hackmann that only took 13 seconds.
“No, you never expect a victory to come so fast. You prepare for war, for the full 15 minutes, and prepare for the worst, and that’s what I’ve done for every fight. I’ve been fortunate to get four first round finishes in my six fights, but I think that’s just a reflection of my work, of my training, and of my style. I believe I am a dangerous fighter, not just because of my jiu-jitsu, but because of my complete ability. Once again I’m prepared to show all of those this Friday night.”
To keep his undefeated streak alive and notch a seventh straight win that puts him closer to the Middleweight title he’ll have to contend with the wrestling AND striking of “The Cutt.”
“I’m really happy to have this opportunity to face such a great wrestler. In my limited career I have not faced a wrestler yet and he’s about as decorated as they come. I’m looking forward to the challenge. It’s gonna push me in new ways because I can’t expect to go out there and get an easy takedown, and who knows what his game plan is? Maybe he’s gonna try to keep it on the feet, maybe he still wants to wrestle and put me on my back and grind me out, that’s what I think is going to make it interesting and bring out the best in me.”
That said if Honeycutt makes an obvious move Lovato can see coming he’s ready and willing to exploit it all night long.
“I mean if he gets over anxious and exposes himself for a takedown, for sure. I’ve been doing jiu-jitsu for so long, I am made to capitalize on openings. Once we’re in the clinch in range, he definitely needs to be careful, but I don’t expect it to be easy. If it’s there it’s there. I’ll be happy to jump on the neck but I’m not expecting it to be easy whatsoever.”
And there you have it. Rafael Lovato Jr. expects a hard fought war at Bellator 189 in Thackerville.
Complete audio of our interview is embedded above, and complete coverage of “Budd vs. Blencowe 2” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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