Tito Ortiz will likely have a major weight advantage on his side when he meets Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko in a light heavyweight bout that’s being planned for Bellator’s May 17 pay-per-view event.
Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney joined the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” show on Wednesday to discuss the matchup, Shlemenko’s eagerness to fight Ortiz and more.
On whether the fight is official: “I’m probably a step away, a day away from getting final approval from the commission. We’re making it obviously at 205 because Shlemenko said, ‘I don’t care. I’ll go up to whatever weight he wants to fight at. It makes no difference to me.’ We’re probably a step away from official, but all indications are we’re going to make it happen. It’ll be the third fight on the pay-per-view.”
On the weight difference: “It’s 20 pounds on paper, but legitimately, Shlemenko walks around at 190. He’s a guy who cuts four pounds, who stops eating big meals a day and a half before the fight to cut four pounds of water weight to make 185. He’s a typical Eastern European fighter who’s not interested in the cut. By the time that fight goes into the cage, you’re probably looking at a 30-, 35-pound weight disparity between Tito and Alexander. I think that’s what gives a lot of the punch behind that big fight that we’ve got coming up in May.”
On Ortiz’s health: “Tito is Tito. Love or hate Tito, people always have an opinion and are interested in seeing what he does and where he goes and what happens. I think the important thing for me, and Tito articulated it pretty well, was we had to make sure he was OK. There was a long delay in getting all the necessary approvals, but we went to one of the foremost doctors in the world in terms of back and neck injury and spinal issues and neck issues, and we finally got a complete, clear-cut approval for him to go. He’s at no greater risk than anybody else that might step into the cage that’s a top athlete. … He’s in good shape. He’s been training.”
On fans embracing Shlemenko: “Numbers don’t lie. You track quarter-hours and you track ratings. Shlemenko versus [Brennan] Ward did great numbers for us. … Shlemenko, obviously, [has] 50 wins. He’s not even 30 years old. Now he’s challenged Tito Ortiz and he’s going to be fighting in a huge show for us. That guy’s going to turn over numbers, but it’s the spinning back fists, it’s his amazingly exciting style, coupled with the fact that he’s got that whole Drago persona. Literally, we’ve had the guy signed for four years and I think I’ve seen him smile three times.”
Listen to the full interview (beginning at 30:47).