Bellator saved one of its most intriguing new fighter signings of 2010 for last, announcing today that one of the top unsigned fighters in Europe, Russian Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko, will premiere in the Season Two middleweight tournament this week.
The 27-4 Shlemenko—who arrived in the U.S. from his home in Siberia, Russia, on Sunday—will make his Bellator debut this Thursday in a tournament quarterfinal matchup against Matt Major at Bellator 16.
Shlemenko is the eighth and final entrant into Bellator’s middleweight tournament and the 32nd and final fighter to sign on as a participant in Bellator’s four Season Two tournaments.
With his superb record, devastating power and well-earned reputation as a highlight reel finisher (17 of his wins have come via KO or TKO), the 25-year-old Shlemenko enters the middleweight tournament as an early favorite to emerge as the No. 1 contender to reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard.
“Alexander is a dangerous fighter who poses a serious threat to anyone he faces at 185,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “We’ve been working on signing Russia’s top middleweight for some time and I’m glad we’ll finally get to see him fight in our tournament and beyond. Alexander’s style—spinning back fists, flying knees, and non-stop strikes—make for great fights.”
Shlemenko first took an interest in MMA in the early 2000s after watching the various UFC VHS tapes that were on sale in his country. He began training in Muay Thai and, when he heard that a Russian MMA promotion was staging an event in his hometown of Omsk early in 2004, he entered and ended up winning.
He went on to win each of his first 15 pro fights (including three fights in one night in December 2004) and was soon regarded as one of the top prospects in Russia and all of Europe.
He enters the Bellator middleweight tournament having won 11 of his last 12 bouts, with his only loss in that span coming to former UFC fighter and Bulgarian Olympic wrestler Jordan Radev.
Shlemenko’s most recent win was a stunning first round KO of one-time UFC headliner Sean Salmon.
“I feel that Bellator is a really great opportunity for me,” Shlemenko said through his interpreter.
“I love the tournament format and I think it’s a great chance for me to get exposure here in the U.S. market. My only goal is to be the No. 1 middleweight fighter in the world and Bellator will help me do that. I’ve seen Hector Lombard fight, I’ve studied his style and I know it well. I’d love to fight him and become the champion at his expense.”
Shlemenko’s debut this Thursday will be broadcast nationwide on FOX Sports Net and during taped weekend highlight shows on NBC, Telemundo, and mun2.