Opinion: Bellator Needs To Keep Its Champ Busy
By Michael Hatamoto
Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko successfully defended his title against Brett Cooper in a five-round, 25-minute battle.
It was refreshing to see both fighters completely exhausted heading into the fifth round, knowing Shlemenko and Cooper left everything inside the cage. Ultimately, Shlemenko got the decision as all three judges scored the fight 48-47 for the experienced Russian fighter.
The Rusfighter team leader, Shlemenko spent his entire training camp for the Cooper fight in the United States – the first time he’s ever stayed stateside away from Rusfighter. I think the excellent training with the strong team at Reign Training Center made a difference with his technical MMA skills and cardio – and there is top-level coaching and fighters at the Southern California gym.
I think Shlemenko deserves to be kept busy if he wants to, especially since Bellator has sometimes shown weaknesses in getting fighters booked. The Cooper rematch was just Shlemenko’s second Bellator fight since 2011, when he fought four times in a single year.
Shlemenko has 55 total career fights, sporting a 48-7 record, before his 30th birthday, and he’s fought all over the world. He has a solid striking game, though has worked to ensure his wrestling and submissions also keep him in the fight – something that was overlooked in the Russian’s career six years ago.
If Bellator can’t give fighters on its rosters Bellator fights, and then some type of co-promotion is necessary to keep signed talent happy. However, it would be risky to have your champion end up getting injured or losing in devastating fashion.