Two Bellator tournament hopefuls have withdrawn from the promotion’s upcoming ninth season, as featherweight Shahbulat Shamhalaev and lightweight Rob Sinclair have been forced to pull out of their respective brackets.
Shamhalaev withdrew in order to return to his home country of Dagestan and visit his ailing father, while Sinclair suffered a knee injury that will prevent him from competing. Shamhalaev will be replaced by Strikeforce veteran Justin Wilcox, who will now square off with Akop Stepanyan when the featherweight tournament kicks off Sept. 13 at Bellator 99.
Ricardo Tirloni will relieve Sinclair in the lightweight draw, meeting Rich Clementi in the Brit’s stead. Tirloni was initially supposed to face Marcin Held at Bellator 101, but Held will instead face World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Ryan Healy.
Wilcox makes his featherweight debut after competing at lightweight for most of his career. “The Silverback” fought nine times under the Strikeforce banner from 2008 to 2012, posting a 5-3 record with one no-contest. The American Kickboxing Academy talent exited the promotion last summer on the heels of back-to-back defeats, falling via first-round knockout to Caros Fodor before dropping a split decision to Jorge Masvidal.
Tirloni, 30, has lost three of his last four fights, coming up short in three lightweight tournaments thus far. The Brazilian, who won 14 of his first 15 bouts prior to his recent stretch, most recently competed this past January, when he was outpointed by Will Brooks in the Season 8 tournament quarterfinals.