Religion, Not Management, Keeping Khalidov from Bellator

By Tomasz Marciniak May 17, 2011
Polish middleweight Mamed Khalidov is a devout Muslim. | Photo: Daniel Herbertson/Sherdog.com



Recent remarks from Bellator Fighting Championships Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney regarding negotiations with middleweight Mamed Khalidov have caused a bit of a stir in the Polish fight scene.

Asked during a May 14 news conference why Bellator had not yet signed the highly regarded free agent, Rebney cited a “lack of willingness” on the part of Khalidov’s management to work with his promotion, as well as a need to “explain to them what the opportunity is.”

Speaking to Sherdog.com this week, Khalidov was quick to assert that the breakdown in negotiations was not due to the unwillingness of his management but rather Khalidov’s own priorities outside the cage.

“Ultimately, the next middleweight tournament begins in September and I, because I’m Muslim, have to fast for the length of August,” said Khalidov, referring to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which in 2011 will be observed Aug. 1-29. During that period, Muslims are prohibited from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, an obvious impediment to MMA training.

“I don’t train at all during this period, and there’s no way I could fight as early as September,” explained the Chechen-born fighter. “I need at least two months to prepare and, for me, the fasting is more important than fights in Bellator or even [Polish promotion Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki].”

Coping with Ramadan has not been easy for professional athletes worldwide. In order to allow sportsmen to observe their religious ritual, competitions in Muslim countries take place after sundown during this month. In 2010, at the request of Germany’s Central Council of Muslims, Islamic scholars from Al-Azhar University in Cairo issued a fatwa exempting athletes from the strict fasting rules.

“I’m still interested in Bellator, definitely. Just not in September,” surmised Khalidov, who, along with managers Maciej Kawulski and Martin Lewandowski, maintains that he made his own decision in the matter.

While the fighter himself responded to Rebney’s comments in a level-headed manner, tempers flared up more with his management. Kawulski accused Bellator of not releasing Polish lightweight Marcin Held to take part in KSW 16 on May 21, while Lewandowski blamed the failure of negotiations on the American promotion only recently announcing the date for its September tournament.

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