Rafael was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in June of 1983. Following the influence of his father, Rafael began studying martial arts when he first started walking. Rafael’s path began by studying Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Escrima, Boxing, and Thai Boxing under his father and Richard Bustillo. Rafael was very competitive and he soon held titles in Escrima and was well on his way to a promising boxing career. At the early of age of thirteen, Rafael found his passion when his father introduced him to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). Rafael made a serious commitment to BJJ at the age of fifteen, after early competition success.
In August of 2004, shortly after turning 21, Rafael became the youngest American to receive a black belt in BJJ at that time. In receiving his black belt Rafael also helped accomplish another feat, as he and his father became the first American father and son black belts. Rafael has continued to make much history in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, becoming the most decorated American BJJ competitor today. In 2007, Rafael achieved the incredible feet of winning the four most prestigious events in BJJ all in a row. He became the first American to win the Brazilian National Championships (Brasileiro) at the Black Belt level and the 2nd American, after BJ Penn, to win the World Championships as a Black Belt. These accomplishments earned Rafael the prestigious BJJ competitor of the year award for 2007. Rafael is also one of the only American’s to ever be featured on the cover of the famous Gracie Magazine. In 2009, Rafael was honored for his accomplishments when he was inducted into the prestigious Grapplers Quest Hall of Fame.
Rafael has trained, taught, and competed all over the world and he is an inspiration to many BJJ competitors today. Despite his success in life Rafael has managed to remain humble and respectful of all people. He praises his excellent coach, the legendary Saulo Ribeiro and his incredible training partner, Saulo’s brother, Xande Ribeiro. Rafael also gives thanks to his family, friends, students, and sponsors for all their support. Rafael is still an active competitor, but now some of his greatest joys come from the success of his students.
Some of Rafael’s accomplishments as a Black Belt include:
3 x Pan-American Champion
2 x Budweiser World Cup Pro Champion
2 x Grapplers Quest Pro Champion
2005 Rickson Gracie Budo Challenge Champion
2006 American National Champion
2006 Professional Submission League X-Mission Champion
On the recommendation of a friend, I started training at Lovato’s School of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu about 18 months ago. I had no experience in wrestling or grappling and was almost 48 years old. I knew nothing about the instructors, or even had a clear idea of what BJJ was. Now, I truly feel l... read more