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Gegard Mousasi injured, out of Bellator 214 title defense vs. Rafael Lovato Jr

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Bellator MMA’s middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi will not be defending his belt next month.

MMA: Bellator 200 Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

Bellator MMA’s first show of 2019 just took a hit.

ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported on Thursday that reigning middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi has withdrawn from his title defense vs. Rafael Lovato Jr due to a back injury. The bout was set to serve as the co-main event for Bellator 214 on January 26th.

It is not yet known whether or not Lovato Jr (9-0), a prolific jiu-jitsu competitor who’s become one of Bellator’s top middleweights, will remain on the card.

Mousasi (45-6-2) became Bellator’s 185 lbs king last year when he TKO’d Rafael Carvalho in the Bellator 200 main event. His first defense of the belt was a champ vs. champ “superfight” against welterweight titleholder Rory MacDonald back in September, but the Canadian was scarcely competitive against Mousasi, who bludgeoned Rory with his jab and vicious ground-and-pound to win by second-round TKO. The 33-year-old hasn’t lost since a stunning KO in 2015 vs. Uriah Hall, whom he’d beat in a rematch the following year.

Bellator 214 takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, California and features a main event between Fedor Emelianenko and Ryan Bader in the heavyweight Grand Prix final, which will also crown the promotion’s newest heavyweight champion. The main card will be simulcast on both Paramount Network and DAZN.