Onetime Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov is set to return to the ring where he got his start.
Russian organization M-1 Global on Tuesday announced that it has signed the 27-year-old, 6-foot-7 fighter to “an exclusive promotional contract.” Specifics of the deal were not disclosed.
Volkov will be thrust straight into the title picture at Feb. 19’s M-1 Challenge 64, where “Drago” will fight Denis Smoldarev for the company’s vacant heavyweight championship. The belt was recently vacated by Polish prospect Marcin Tybura, who is reportedly pursuing a contract with the UFC.
Volkov recorded a 6-3 record during his time with Bellator, earning wins against the likes of Blagoy Ivanov and Brett Rogers during a three-year stint. The Moscow native was released by the organization in October following back-to-back losses against Cheick Kongo and Tony Johnson. Volkov began his career competing for M-1 and went 8-3 under the banner between 2009 and 2011.
Like his opponent, Smoldarev also stands 6-foot-7, though the Estonian is two years younger than Volkov. The only blemish on Smoldarev’s 12-fight professional ledger came in November 2014, when he was denied by Tybura in his first bid to capture M-1 gold.