Bellator officials announced on Friday that Tito Ortiz vs. middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko has been signed for Bellator 120. The event takes place May 17 and will be the first pay-per-view put on by the promotion.
Ortiz has not fought since a loss to Forrest Griffin in the UFC. He previously held the UFC light heavyweight championship and was inducted into the UFC’s Hall of Fame.
“This fight really came out of nowhere and it took me by surprise, but it took me about three seconds to accept the fight,” Ortiz said. “I’m healthy, I feel great, and I’m ready to do this. I knew I wasn’t going to get any easy fights in Bellator, it’s never what I wanted, and they delivered with a great fight for May 17. Shlemenko is a tough guy, he’s the Middleweight Champion, but he’s fighting at my weight class, the weight class where I have beaten some of the best in the world, and it’s going to be a very bad night for him.”
Shlemenko won his 50th professional fight when he submitted Brennan Ward and defended his title earlier this year. He is riding a 13-fight win streak.
“Tito Ortiz says he is healthy and he wants to fight. So now he has a fight. Me,” Shlemenko said. “I will fight Tito, and I will beat him. I have a great respect for Tito Ortiz, but I have wanted to fight Tito for a long time, and this is my chance. I am moving up to light heavyweight for this fight, and I will win. When I am done with Tito, I will continue to defend my middleweight belt in Bellator.”
The bout joins a list of fights that includes Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler for the Bellator lightweight title, and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. “King Mo” Lawal in the light heavyweight season 10 finals.
“Shlemenko’s one of MMA’s greatest champions, he’s riding a 13 fight win streak and he’s got an incredible level of confidence he can beat anyone in the world. When I saw the immediate fan response following the callout, I knew this was a fight I wanted to make provided we received commission approval,” Bellator chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “Of the thousands of opinions that came out when this was announced, half think Alexander destroys him and half think Tito does the same. This will be a great fight.”