Former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko says he is interested in signing with the UFC once the coronavirus pandemic ends.
Shlemenko is one of the most accomplished MMA fighters who is not currently part of a large organization. Between 2013 and 2014, Shlemenko was the Bellator middleweight champion and defended his belt three times. He is also a two-time winner of the Bellator middleweight tournament from the Bjorn Rebney days of the company.
Shlemenko was last seen competing in his native Russia in December where he picked up a submission win over former WSOF double champion David Branch. Shlemenko has won three of his last four fights, bouncing back after a three-fight losing streak that saw him get bounced out of Bellator.
Speaking to Championat, Shlemenko says he is currently a free agent but has not yet signed with another promotion because his current goal is to go to the UFC.
“I have a great desire to get into the UFC, and I’m already halfway there. I have not signed a contract with any organization now just because of one goal – to get into the UFC and take the title. I believe in myself, everything will work out,” Shlemenko said (via Karim Zidan of BloodyElbow.com).
Shlemenko said that the coronavirus pandemic has played a role in him not yet signing with the UFC, but he hopes that it will happen once the quarantine restrictions are lifted.
“There was a desire to join the UFC this year, but the pandemic confused the cards. Now many people will be left without work, as well as the fighters, too,” Shlemenko said.
If Shlemenko signs with the UFC, he likely wouldn’t be considered a top contender for the belt given that he’s now 35. But he would still provide more depth to the division regardless.
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This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 4/20/2020.