Bellator MMA Signs UFC, DWCS Vet Aalon Cruz, Ukraine’s Kateryna Shakalova

Aalon Cruz UFC
Aalon Cruz, UFC Norfolk ceremonial weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Bellator MMA is welcoming two new fighters to the fold ahead of 2023.

On Tuesday, promotion officials announced the signing of UFC and Dana White’s Contender Series alumnus Aalon Cruz, and Ukrainian women’s featherweight talent Kateryna Shakalova.

Both fighters enter the promotion on impressive win streaks.

Cruz (10-4), competing as a lightweight, has notched back-to-back wins since parting ways with the UFC in in 2021. Defeating Steve Nguyen on the Contender Series in 2019 to win his way into the promotion, Cruz already had a win over current UFC talent Steve Garcia from earlier in his career. But he ran into Spike Carlyle and Uros Medic inside the octagon, losing to both before being cut.

Now back to his winning ways, Cruz has earned stoppages in each of his last two fights, and has six finishes among his ten wins overall.

Shakalova (7-1), from Ukraine, has been competing at bantamweight, a division Bellator MMA does not currently offer (though if it’s left up to Liz Carmouche, that could soon change). She’s won six straight fights, picking up rear-naked choke submissions in her last two.

The Ukrainian picked up a win over UFC alum Izabela Badurek last year. She’s expected to compete at featherweight, alongside the likes of Leah McCourt, Cat Zingano, and current champion Cris Cyborg.

Both fighters are expected to make their promotional debuts sometime in the first half of 2023.