Bellator MMA have made another “Big” splash (pun fully intended) in the free agent market, signing Ultimate Fighter 10 winner Roy “Big Country” Nelson. MMA Fighting first reported the news earlier today. Nelson later confirmed the signing on social media.
— Roy Nelson (@roynelsonmma) May 26, 2017
Nelson has long been a fan favorite in the UFC heavyweight division, storming out of the gate upon joining the promotion for TUF 10 in 2009. He would famously derail the Kimbo Slice hype train over the course of the show, and win a UFC contract by knocking out Brendan Schaub at the finale.
From that point forward, Nelson (22-14), who preferred to rely on his thunderous right hand and granite chin despite owning a formidable ground game, was a fan favorite. Memorable wins included knockouts of Stefan Struve, Matt Mitrione, Cheick Kongo, Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, and Bigfoot Silva. Despite hitting a rough patch over the past few years and reaching his fortieth birthday, Nelson went 2-2 in his final four UFC bouts, including the thunderous knockout of Bigfoot last September. His only stoppage loss in the UFC came at the hands of another big hitter, Mark Hunt.
In addition to winning The Ultimate Fighter, Big Country also appeared as a coach on the show, opposite Shane Carwin for Season 16. However, an injury to Carwin nixed the coaches fight. Nelson instead faced and knocked out Matt Mitrone, another recent Bellator MMA signee.
Throughout his tenure with the UFC, Nelson frequently butted heads with UFC President Dana White, who once claimed Nelson was a “f***ing idiot” who “couldn’t get a job at kinkos.”
No debut date has been announced for Nelson as of yet. However, his signing may signal that the long wait to crown a new heavyweight champion is reaching its end. The belt has been vacant since Bellator stripped Vitaly Minakov in May 2016. Next month, heavyweight legend Fedor Emelianenko meets Matt Mitrione at Bellator NYC. The winner of that bout would be a possibility for a fighter with Nelson’s pedigree and following.