Here they come! The Annual OTM Awards are here: the industry standard for recognizing excellence in combat sports and the most trusted name in MMA, BJJ, and Submission Grappling.
OntheMat.com is pleased to announce our choice for BJJ Player of the Year goes to Rafael Lovato Jr.
Rafael Lovato Jr took four first place finishes in four major International BJJ competitions on three different continents (a feat that has never been accomplished before to our knowledge), en route to becoming only the second American to win a gold medal in the Black Belt Adult division of the Mundials.
Rafael began the year early in January taking the gold in the Super Heavy category. Rafael then went on to repeat his feat at the Pan American championships. Rafael then went to Brazil and won the category at the Brazilian Nationals Championship (becoming the first American to win the Black Belt Adult division there). It all culminated back in California, where by a buzzer beating advantage Rafael became only the second American to take an uncontested gold in Black Belt Adult division doing it in the Super Super Heavy category.
Not bad for a self described “kid from the middle of Oklahoma”, proving you can become world champion caliber where ever you happen to be from. Rafael spends a great deal of time traveling to both compete and train with his mentors the Ribeiro brothers, but also has time to lend his expertise to the academy he and his father run in their hometown of Oklahoma City, which has also produced champion level competitors.
We’ve often said the Rafael Lovato Jr. with his skills on the mat, and the way he carries himself off of it, is the foremost representative of Jiu Jitsu in the United States. Today we’re saying that Rafael is one of the leading ambassadors of Jiu Jitsu to the entire world.
Previous BJJ Players of the Year:
2003: Fredson Paixao
2004: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
2005: Alexandre “Xande” Ribeiro
2006: Marcelo Garcia
Agree with our pick? Who were the other candidates: Sound off now in the OTM forum! http://www.onthemat.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4281