We’re very excited to have someone of Rafael Lovato’s Jr. join the OTM forums in order to help you out with your game! Register now at www.Onthemat.com/forum Rafael Lovato Jr can stake his claim at being the top American Jiu Jitsu Competitor ever, and this year he took home four gold medals in four international events. Now Rafael Lovato Jr will be available in the OTM Forums to talk shop, give his opinions and help YOU with advice! Let’s start off by talking with Rafael about his remarkable year. Gumby: Rafael you’ve had a tremendous year on the competition circuit. Let’s start off talking about your trip to Europe. Rafael: Well, it was my first trip to Europe. The European Open was held in Portugal and it was a very big tournament. I wanted to be very active this year and since Xande wanted to go, there was no question that I was going to go with him. I had 5 matches there; I won my weight class and got third in the absolute winning all my matches by submission. I was able to open up and play a lot out there and it gave me some good experience for the rest of the tournaments. I was also disappointed in my loss to Braulio, so my hunger to train harder and compete more was still very strong, even after the long trip. Gumby: Then we get to the Pan Americans of Jiu Jitsu in Los Angeles: Rafael: The Pan-Ams was pretty much the same story. I had 5 matches; I won my weight class and got third in the absolute, losing to Romulo Barral. I prefer to have the open class on different days, but at the Pan-Ams they still do it all in one day and after I won my division I wasn’t 100% focused on the absolute like I should have been. This is something I still need to work on; I haven’t won an absolute black belt division at any of the major tournaments yet. I have placed third at the Pan Ams twice and third at the European. It takes a lot of mental focus to be able to have anywhere from 6 to 10 matches in one weekend against many top guys and not lose one of them. It is now a very big goal of mine to win an absolute next year. Gumby: Followed by a trip to Brazil: Rafael: Honestly the Brasileiro is one of the tournaments I am most proud of in my life. I preformed very weak in the absolute on the first day and I was so focused going into the tournament on Sunday. I was sick and I didn’t have any of my coaches there, but fortunately my friends Morango & Leticia helped me very much. I had three matches to win a super tough division and it felt great. After I got back I was very pleased with how I did and I had a lot of confidence. I decided to take a little break after the Brasileiro and I didn’t compete again until the Mundials. I wanted to keep the same momentum I felt in Brazil going into the Mundials. Gumby: With all of these titles, how did it feel going into the Worlds? Did you feel that this was your year? Rafael: Going into the Mundials I had a lot of different feelings. At first I was confused as to what division to do, I wanted to do Pesado, but I didn’t want to take the chance of being in the finals with Xande. I thought about doing Super-Pesado, but I didn’t want to fight Roger twice, because I knew he would be on my side of the absolute. So after talking it over with Saulo we decided that Pesadissimo would be the best place for me. I felt very confident, but I also felt some nervousness and pressure. I didn’t want to have this great year and then fall short at the most important one. We had a very tough training camp in San Diego and I did a lot of mental training and visualizing. We had a very strong team and we were all behind each other 100%, having guys like Saulo & Xande Ribeiro behind you help so much. When I went to the tournament on Sunday, deep down I knew that it was going to be my day. Gumby: Rafael Lovato Jr. World Champion Black Belt. Has it sunk in yet? Rafael: Not really. I dreamed about winning the Mundials for so long. I never won it at any of the lower belts, in fact the only title I had was a Pan-Am gold as a blue belt. After that the best I did at the other belts was third place, so it is still very hard for me to believe. I still feel like I can be so much better and I look forward to continually improving and hopefully winning the Mundials again. Gumby: This also marks the year of some major successes by your students: Rafael: Yes. Once I became a black belt, I felt that it was very important for me to have some strong competitors of my own. I try to help my students as much as I can and it is very rewarding for me to watch them win. I have had students win or place at GQ, American Nationals, Pan-Ams, and Mundials as well as some great performances at the smaller tournaments. Justin Rader is a long time student of my father and I. He had a tremendous year, winning the American Nationals in 06 and the Pan-Ams & Mundials in 07 as a featherweight purple belt. I am very proud of all of my students. Gumby: What’s in the immediate future for you? Rafael: Well, this weekend I will be coaching Rader in a four-man tournament on the East coast. I am always training and working to get better and better. I think I will only compete one more time before the year is over, hopefully at a PSL event. I felt like I needed to take a little break and focus on working on some different parts of my game and helping my students. I will be ready to hit it hard again next year. Gumby: What the best advice you can give to someone trying to follow in your footsteps? Rafael: The best advice I could give would be to never give up. I have had my share of losses coming up, but I always tried to learn from it and use it as motivation. There were plenty of moments when I doubted myself or thought that I could never reach the top. But if you believe in yourself and your training than anything is possible. Gumby: We’re really excited to have you as a feature contributor on the OTM Forums! What do you think you can help people with? Rafael: I think that I have some good advice to give regarding anything; training, competing, technical advice etc… I have lived in Oklahoma City during my whole career in BJJ, without a black belt instructor in my city, just my father and I and our students. So I have had a difficult path to get to where I am at and I have been through it all. Gumby: Thanks Rafael, and talk to you on the OTM Forums! Rafael: Thank you Gumby. I look forward to being an asset to everyone out there on the OTM Forum.