Shahbulat Shamhalaev will return to the cage on April 4, when the Season 7 tournament winner takes on reigning featherweight champion Pat Curran at Bellator 95.
Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney announced the booking Wednesday. Bellator 95 takes place at the Revel in Atlantic City, N.J., and was initially supposed to be headlined by a rematch between Curran and Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus. However, Straus was recently forced to withdraw from the title bout due to a broken hand.
Shamhalaev, 29, has gone 10-0-1 in his last 11 fights, finishing Cody Bollinger and Mike Richman with violent, first-round knockouts to advance to the Season 7 finals against Rad Martinez. That pairing was twice delayed, however, and was forced to take place in Season 8 at Bellator 90, where Shamhalaev stopped Martinez in the second round.
Curran, 25, began his Bellator run as a lightweight, winning the Season 2 tournament before coming up short against then-champion Eddie Alvarez. Since dropping to featherweight, the Illinois resident has posted five straight wins, capturing the 2011 Summer Series crown before snatching Bellator’s world title from Joe Warren last year. Most recently, Curran defended his belt for the first time, taking a split decision from Patricio Freire last month at Bellator 85.