With a clear-cut decision win over welterweight champ Douglas Lima last Thursday, Mousasi has his belt back, along with that little historical distinction. While “The Dreamcatcher” would probably prefer not to have lost the belt in the first place, he can now turn his attention to the crop of contenders that has been waiting since he was defeated last June by Rafael Lovato Jr. However, one challenger who will not be in the queue is Lovato Jr. himself, who was forced to relinquish the belt and retire from competition after being diagnosed with a brain condition earlier this year.
While Lovato Jr’s story is a tragedy for the former champ and a sad loss for the sport, it is 100 percent on brand for one of Bellator’s most hard-luck divisions. Since its inception in 2009, the Bellator middleweight belt has been stripped or vacated as many times (3) as it has been won from a reigning champ. Things got off to a rocky start when inaugural champion Hector Lombard won the title with a violent stoppage of Jared Hess, then immediately put the belt in mothballs, defending it just once in nearly three years before bolting for the Ultimate Fighting Championship. While his successor, Alexander Shlemenko, did his best to make up for lost time, winning the belt and defending it three times in rapid succession, since Shlemenko’s loss to Brandon Halsey it has been rough sledding again for long stretches.
Here is the 11-year history of the Bellator middleweight title and the times it was won, lost or defended. It tells the story of a division that has often boasted outstanding fighters, but has thus far struggled to catch a break.
Ben Duffy/Sherdog.com illustration