Yesterday on the third episode of the Save Jiu Jitsu podcast, BJJ stand out Rafael Lovato Jr announced his intentions to take an MMA fight later in 2014. The son of a martial arts instructor, Lovato grew up training under his father in boxing and kickboxing, but upon their discovery of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu both father and son concentrated his time on grappling.
Lovato would become one of the most complete and successful competitors in sport grappling, and and is the only American to win a World Championship, a European Championship, a Pan American Championship, and a Brazilian National Champion, all of which he won in 2007. He has also won a No Gi World Championship and has competed at Metamoris and ADCCs. All this has caused him to surpass B.J. Penn in the eyes of many in the grappling community as the best American-born BJJ grappler.
The Save Jiu Jitsu podcast is associated with Lovato - the Save Jiu Jitsu movement was started by Lovato in an effort to put the emphasis back on submission-oriented grappling. In the interview it appeared Lovato is only making a temporary move to MMA, citing that without ADCCs being held on even number years it leaves his calendar very open to trying something new.
Lovato will be interesting to see in MMA because while he has an excellent guard game, he is primarily a very strong top player, and that style of jiu jitsu has transferred very well to MMA traditionally. Throw in Lovato's background in striking, and the fact that one of his students, Justin Rader, is one of the better takedown artists in sport jiu jitsu, makes Lovato an interesting convert to MMA. Rader has also crossed over to MMA and is currently 2-0 as a professional, both fights coming in 2014.
Lovato stated that he has not reached agreements with a promotion yet, but once that happens we will keep you updated.
Rafael Lovato Jr. "I Make History" Highlight Video (via Lovato Jiu Jitsu)