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I Am Rafael Lovato Jr.


Rafael was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in June of 1983 and he has lived in Oklahoma City since he was 8 years old. Following the influence of his father, Rafael began studying martial arts when he first started walking. Rafael’s path began by studying Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Escrima, Boxing, and Thai Boxing under his father and Richard Bustillo. Rafael was very competitive and he soon held titles in Escrima and was well on his way to a promising boxing career. At the early of age of thirteen, Rafael found his passion when his father introduced him to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu after learning about it through a JKD instructor's conference. Rafael made a serious commitment to BJJ at the age of fifteen, after early competition success. At 16 years of age, Rafael won the 2000 Pan-American Championships in the Juvenile, Blue Belt division. Later that year, after turning 17, Rafael won 2 medals at the World Championships, in the Juvenile, Blue Belt division, including the Bronze medal in his weight class and the Silver medal in the Juvenile absolute division. Rafael was among the first generation of Americans to win in the Juvenile division in Brazil and his 2000 campaign included wins over some of Brazil's future stars including: Augusto "Tanquinho" Mendes, Ricardo "Demente" Abreu, and Vinny "Pezao" Magalhaes.

In August of 2004, shortly after turning 21, Rafael became the youngest American to receive a black belt in BJJ at that time. In receiving his black belt Rafael also helped accomplish another feat, as he and his father became the first American father and son black belts. Rafael has continued to make much history in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, becoming the most decorated American BJJ competitor today. In 2007, Rafael became the first person ever to win the European Open Championships, Pan-American Championships, Brazilian National Championships (Brasileiro), and World Championships (Mundials) at the Black Belt level all in the same year! These accomplishments earned Rafael the prestigious BJJ competitor of the year award for 2007. Currently, Rafael is the first American to have won the European Open Championships, and only American to have won the Pan-American Championships and Brazilian National Championships (Brasileiro) at the adult Black Belt level and he is the 2nd American, after BJ Penn, to win the World Championships as a Black Belt. In 2009, Rafael was honored for his accomplishments when he was inducted into the prestigious Grapplers Quest Hall of Fame. In 2010, Rafael became part of an elite group of competitors to ever win Black Belt World titles with and without the gi, when Rafael won the No-Gi World Championships in the Black Belt Heavyweight division. On that same day, Rafael achieved another amazing feat, but this time as a teacher, when his student and first Black Belt, Justin Rader, won his Black Belt division at the No-Gi World Championships as well. The duo made history that day as teacher and student Black Belt No-Gi World Champions and Rafael became the first American to produce a Black Belt No-Gi World Champion.

Rafael has managed to achieve all of these great accomplishments while living in Oklahoma City, without a Black Belt instructor in his hometown and being far away from all of the major BJJ competitions and high level competitors, during his whole Jiu-Jitsu training career. These hardships have helped Rafael understand even more what it takes to become a champion. Now, Rafael is the full time owner, operator, and head instructor of Lovato's School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts which is one of the top schools in the country, producing BJJ World Champion medalists and UFC fighters. Rafael has trained, taught, and competed all over the world and he is an inspiration to many BJJ competitors today. Despite his success in life Rafael has managed to remain humble and respectful of all people. He praises his excellent coach, the legendary Saulo Ribeiro and his incredible training partner, Saulo’s brother, Xande Ribeiro. Rafael also gives thanks to his family, friends, students, and sponsors for all their support. Rafael is still an active competitor, but now some of his greatest joys come from the success of his students.

Some of Rafael’s accomplishments as a Black Belt include:

  • 3 x Pan-American Champion (2005, 2007, & 2008)
  • 2 x Budweiser World Cup Pro Champion (2005 & 2007)
  • 2 x Grapplers Quest Pro Champion
  • 2005 CBJJE World Cup Bronze Medalist
  • 2005 Rickson Gracie Budo Challenge Champion
  • 2006 American National Champion
  • 2006 Professional Submission League X-Mission Champion
  • 2007 European Open Champion
  • 2007 Brasileiro Champion
  • 2007 World BJJ Champion
  • 2007 BJJ Fighter of the Year
  • 2008 World BJJ Runner-Up
  • 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships 4th Place
  • 2009 No-Gi World Runner-Up
  • 2009 World BJJ Bronze Medalist
  • 2010 Pan-American Runner-Up
  • 2010 Brasileiro Absolute Runner-Up
  • 2010 World BJJ Bronze Medalist
  • 2010 No-Gi World Champion
  • 2011 European Open Runner-Up
  • 2011 Abu Dhabi Pro Trials Poland Absolute Champion
  • 2011 Abu Dhabi World Pro No-Gi Champion
  • 2011 Abu Dhabi World Pro Gi Bronze Medalist
  • 2011 World BJJ Bronze Medalist
  • 2011 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships 4th Place
  • 2011 Grapplers Quest / UFC Fan Expo Superfight Champion
  • 2011 No-Gi World Champion
  • 2011 Abu Dhabi Pro Trials San Antonio Weight & Absolute Champion
  • 2012 Abu Dhabi World Pro Bronze Medalist
  • 2012 World Jiu-Jitsu Expo Superfight Champion
  • 2012 World BJJ Bronze Medalist
  • 2012 Metamoris Champion
  • 2012 No-Gi World Runner-Up
  • 2013 Brasileiro Absolute Champion
  • Grapplers Quest Hall of Fame Inductee
  • United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame Inductee

Statistics

  • First American to medal in the Juvenile division at the Mundials (2000)
  • Only American to win two medals in the Juvenile division at the Mundials while they were held in Brazil (2000)
  • Only American to win the 2005 Rickson Gracie Budo Challenge
  • First American to win the Europeans as a Black Belt adult (2007)
  • Only American to win two medals (weight & absolute) in the same year at the Europeans as a Black Belt adult (2007)
  • Two time European Open Finalist - 5 time medalist (1 gold, 1 silver, & 3 bronze)
  • Only American to win the Pan-Ams as a Black Belt adult
  • Won Pan-Ams 3 times (2005, 2007, & 2008)
  • 9 Pan-Am medals as a Black Belt overall (3 golds, 1 silver, & 5 bronzes) in 2 different weight classes & absolute
  • 4 time finalist
  • Only American to win two medals (weight & absolute) in the same year at the Pan-Ams as a Black Belt adult (2006 & 2007)
  • Only American to win the Brasileiro as a Black Belt adult (2007)
  • Only American to medal in the absolute division of the Brasileiro (2010 & 2013)
  • 2 time Brasileiro finalist & 3 medals overall (2 gold, 1 silver, & 1 bronze) - 2 different weight classes & absolute
  • Only American to win two medals (weight & absolute) in the same year at the Brasileiro as a Black Belt adult (2010)
  • 2nd American to win the Mundials (2007) - BJ Penn was the first (2000)
  • Only American to win multiple Black Belt medals at the Mundials (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, & 2012)
  • 2 time Black Belt finalist at the Mundials
  • Only American to medal in multiple weight classes at the Mundials as a Black Belt - 4 (Meio-Pesado, Pesado, Super-Pesado, & Pesadissimo)
  • First person, only American, and one of three ever to win all 4 major international tournaments (Europeans, Pan-Ams, Brasileiro, & Mundials) in the same year as a Black Belt adult
  • other two people to accomplish this is Michael Langhi in 2009 & Bernardo Faria in 2010
  • other people to win the Pan-Ams, Brasileiro, & Mundials in the same year are Jacare (2004), Andre Galvao (2005), & Romulo Barral (2007)
  • First American to win a major Black Belt Absolute Title (Brasileiro 2013)
  • 2007 OTM BJJ Fighter of the Year - only American to ever achieve this
  • Only American Black Belt Gi (2007) & No-Gi World Champion (2010 & 2011)
  • Only American No-Gi World Champion in two different weight classes - one of 4 ever to accomplish this (Lucas Leite, Pablo Popovitch, and Rubens Charles other 3)
  • One of two Americans ever to win the No-Gi Worlds as an adult Black Belt twice (Brandon Mullins - Galo - 2010 & 2011)
  • Black Belt No-Gi World finalist in 3 weight divisions
  • Producer/Teacher of an adult Black Belt World No-Gi Champion - First American to produce an adult Black Belt World No-Gi Champion
  • Grapplers Quest Hall of Fame inductee
  • United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductee
  • Over 8 years of Black Belt competition experience & over 100 black belt matches

Notable opponents defeated in Gi & NO-Gi competition:

  • Romulo Barral
  • Bernardo Faria
  • Antonio Braga Neto
  • Rubens "Cobrinha" Charles
  • Pablo Popovitch
  • Roberto "Cyborg" Abreu
  • Rodolfo Viera
  • Rodrigo Cavaca
  • Otavio Sousa
  • Lucas Leite
  • Kayron Gracie
  • Antonio Carlos Junior
  • Tarsis Humphreys
  • Luiz Theodoro "Big Mac"
  • Roberto "Tussa" Alencar
  • Flavio "Cachorrinho" Almeida
  • Augusto Ferrari
  • Bruno Bastos
  • Ricardo Bastos
  • Abmar Barbosa
  • Alexandro Ceconi
  • Joao Assis
  • Fernando "Soluco" di Piero
  • Ricardo Evangelista
  • Dimitirius Souza
  • Leonardo Nogueira
  • Nivaldo Oliviera
  • Bruno Paulista
  • Artur Cesar
  • Luigi Mondelli
  • Marcel Fortuna
  • Cameron Earle
  • Leo Dalla
  • Rodrigo Teixeira
  • Alan Nascimento
  • Chris Moriarty
  • Rick Macauley
  • Eduardo Telles
  • Rolles Gracie
  • Bento Ribeiro
  • Christiano "Titi" Lazzarine
  • Eduardo "Jamelao" Concecaio

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