One of Bellator’s most accomplished fighters will throw down at the promotion’s Season Nine premiere tomorrow night, as middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko will battle Brett Cooper. While Shlemenko has made quite a name for himself since joining Bellator, by winning not one but two middleweight tournaments, he’s pretty eager to fight more often. Since 2011 the noted striker has fought just three times.
Shlemenko laid claim to Bellator’s vacant belt this past February by stopping Maiquel Falcão, but since he had to wait on the sidelines while another tourney winner was crowned, the Russian hadn’t fought for Bellator since November, 2011. While speaking to MMA Fighting.com, here’s some of what the 29 year-old had to say about the wait, and the issues it raised for him.
“It was a very, very difficult time for me,” Shlemenko said through a translator. “It was extremely hard for me not to fight as often as I can. It was very disappointing for me. It was not my fault that I didn’t fight for so long, so I hope in the future this will change and I will be able to fight more often and Bellator will provide me with such opportunities.”
“I had to wait for the next tournament winner,” Shlemenko said. “All this time I was sitting without a fight. It was [hard] for me. When I couldn’t fight in Bellator, my manager, Alexei Zhernakov, he could arrange fights for me in Russia or some other country. But since I was a title contender, Bellator didn’t allow me to do that.
“Of course I tried to do stuff to feed myself and my family. I did some seminars, I did some train work. However I can say that the situation was very difficult for me and I didn’t like it at all. I really hope that Bellator will do everything to improve the situation so that it will never occur again.”
Of course, the reason Bellator was forced to wait out another middleweight tourney, is because former champ Hector Lombard signed with the UFC (who is the only man to defeat Shlemenko in his last 15 bouts). “Storm” also noted that he’s hoping to fight on Bellator’s November 2nd, pay-per-view event, and that he’s “one of the most exciting fighters Bellator has”. It’s hard to argue with that.
Bellator 98 will be hosted by the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut tomorrow night, and the main card will be broadcast on SPIKE.
Stay tuned to MMA Frenzy.com for all your Bellator news and coverage.