Rafael Lovato Jr was only the second American athlete in history to become a black belt world champion, in 2007 (the first was BJ Penn, in 2000). Since then, he has established himself as a reference among Jiu-Jitsu players. Two days before another great challenge, Lovato talks exclusively to GRACIEMAG.com about his Metamoris Pro match against Kayron Gracie. In the interview he says that he is pleased with the submission-only rule, talks about his training, acknowledges the dangers his opponent represent and praises the existence of events such as Metamoris.
Which is the greatest danger Kayron Gracie can offer you in the fight?
Probably his triangle, but I think he is strong in many positions.
Kayron is known for his guard. Do you intend to be on top or play guard yourself?
I intend to win, the position doesn’t matter.
What does it being a 20-minute, no-points fight change in your training plan and game plan?
I think it makes everything much more simple. I don’t have to worry about scoring points, giving up points or advantages, getting stalled out, wondering who the refs are going to give the decision to, etc… Submission is the game plan! I loved being able to train only focused on this. My game is flowing better than ever and I have been able to develop some new positions that I wouldn’t have been able to add to my game if I was concerned about giving up points.
Tell us how you prepared physically for a fight that can last 20 minutes?
My strength & conditioning coach, Luke Tirey, helped me tremendously with this. I did a lot of longer circuit training and endurance work with my legs and grips. On the mat, I did a lot of shark bait training where many of my best students would rotate on me every 5 minutes and start in good positions on me. I trained as long as an hour straight without hardly taking a break and fresh people rotating on me consistently throughout the whole time. I am fully prepared physically and mentally to go 100% for the whole 20 min.
Are you setting a strategy or do you intend to go with the flow and act as opportunities appear?
My strategy is to continue to move forward and look for the finish.
For you, what is the importance of an event like Metamoris Pro for Jiu-Jitsu?
I have been dying for an event like this! There hasn’t been a big super fight event like this since the PSL or Budo Challenge and I had so much fun at those events. The top athletes deserve a chance to compete in an event where we get to show our Jiu-Jitsu on a big stage and get compensated well win or lose. This is a show, not just a tournament. They did a great job of getting plenty of media exposure and promoting the athletes through the countdown shows. It is a professional event where the athletes are getting treated well and it just motivates us to give an even greater show for the fans. Jiu-Jitsu needs this so we can open up more doors for bigger sponsors and media and allow the athletes to train even more professionally without having to worry about paying the bills by teaching seminars, running academies, etc…