After a couple of false starts when trying to return to the cage in 2021 and 2022, PFL 2019 heavyweight champion Ali Isaev has signed on with a new home.
On Wednesday, Bellator MMA officials announced the signing of Isaev (9-0), along with the re-signing of six talents already under the Bellator banner.
The undefeated Isaev could pose an immediate threat to the promotion’s heavyweight ranks, with the division currently topped by champ Ryan Bader. “Darth” Bader already holds wins over the top four ranked fighters in the division, comprised of Valentin Moldavsky, Linton Vassell, Fedor Emeilianenko, and Cheick Kongo.
A rematch with either Emelianenko or Vassell is possibly up next — but Isaev could quickly work his way up the division.
The 38-year old Russian, from Dagestan, holds wins over former UFC heavyweight Jared Rosholt, Kelvin Tiller, and PFL/Bellator vet Carl Seumanutafa, among others.
“I am very pleased to have a fighter the caliber of Ali Isaev join our heavyweight division, a weight class filled with world class fighters and elite prospects alike. Isaev’s elite wrestling pedigree includes an appearance in the 2008 Olympics, and he has achieved great success in MMA as evidenced by championship run at his prior promotion,” Bellator CEO Scott Coker was quoted as saying in a press release announcing the signing. “I expect Isaev to make an immediate impact in the division and foresee many compelling matchups for him.”
The fighters re-signed to Bellator, meanwhile, are #5-ranked heavyweight Tryrell Fortune, #2-ranked women’s flyweight Kana Watanabe, #10-ranked lightweight Gadzhi Rabadanov, #10-ranked light heavyweight Sullivan Cauley, bantamweight Brian Moore, and middleweight Norbert Novenyi Jr.