Bellator today announced the signing of one of heavyweight MMA’s most storied names.
Former PRIDE and UFC superstar Mirko ‘Cro Cop’ Filipovic has inked a deal with the promotion and will take on another former UFC heavyweight, Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson at Bellator 200 in London on Friday, 25 May at the SSE Arena, Wembley.
The bout is a rematch of their battle at UFC 137 in October 2011, when Nelson finished the Croatian via third-round TKO in Las Vegas.
Now both men are firmly in the veteran stages of their respective careers and looking to score an impressive victory in front of the British fans on what looks set to be one of Bellator’s biggest events of the year.
Cro Cop needs no introduction to long-standing fans of mixed martial arts. The Croatian heavyweight was one of the biggest stars of the PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan, compiling a spectacular highlight reel of knockout finishes, many by his legendary left high kick.
His chilling mantra: “Right leg, hospital. Left leg, cemetery,” became part of the Cro Cop legend, as the former Croatian anti-terrorism commando fought a who’s who of the world’s greatest heavyweights.
When he joined the UFC, his best years were already arguably behind him, but his appearance on a fight card always brought excitement and anticipation among the fans. Now aged 43 and riding an eight-fight win streak (seven by KO/TKO, one by submission), Cro Cop will head to London looking to avenge his 2011 loss to Nelson.
Nelson is also one of the most recognisable heavyweights in MMA. With his trademark mullet, bushy beard and bulging midriff, Nelson doesn’t cut the figure of an elite martial artist. But the Las Vegas native has competed in the upper echelons of the heavyweight division for the best part of a decade.
A former winner of The Ultimate Fighter, Nelson’s heavy hands and iron chin have made him a dangerous opponent for any heavyweight in the world, and in his 38-fight heavyweight career only two athletes – a peak Andrei Arlovski and the thunderously powerful Mark Hunt – have been able to knock him out with four-ounce gloves.
Nelson was edged out by Matt Mitrione via majority decision in the opening round of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament earlier this year and is now looking to continue his Bellator career with his next big fight, and a familiar big-name opponent.
Victory in London would give Nelson a win-double over one of the sport’s biggest legends, and would give Nelson the honour of being the only man to beat Cro Cop twice in mixed martial arts competition.
‘Cro Cop’ and Nelson will join a growing fight card that already features a battle for the Bellator middleweight title, as defending champion Rafael Carvalho puts his belt on the line against Dutch legend Gegard Mousasi.
There will be plenty of British interest on the card, too, as Linton ‘The Swarm’ Vassell takes on former Bellator light-heavyweight champion Phil ‘Mr Wonderful’ Davis.
And the event will mark the long-awaited return of British striking sensation Michael ‘Venom’ Page, who takes on veteran David ‘The Caveman’ Rickels in a featured welterweight bout.
Bellator 200: Confirmed Fights
Rafael Carvalho (15-1) vs. Gegard Mousasi (43-6-2) – Bellator Middleweight Title
Mirko Cro Cop (36-11-2, 1 NC) vs. Roy Nelson (23-15) – Heavyweight Bout
Phil Davis (18-4) vs. Linton Vassell (18-6) – Light-Heavyweight Bout
Michael Page (12-0) vs. David Rickels (19-4, 2 NC) – Welterweight Bout
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