Signings Strengthen Bellator Lightweight Pool

By Brian Knapp Mar 8, 2010
Its featherweight and welterweight tournaments in place, Bellator Fighting Championships on Thursday went to work on its lightweight draw and announced the acquisitions of Janne Tulirinta and the undefeated Chad Hinton. Terms of the deals were not disclosed.

Tulirinta and Hinton join Ferrid Kheder, Mike Ricci and Carey Vanier in the eight-man 155-pound tournament, which kicks off April 8 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

“Janne and Chad come from very different backgrounds, but they have one thing in common; they both have the tools to impact our lightweight division,” Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney said in a release. “Again, our team has assembled a group of fighters with different skill sets, different backgrounds and a wide range of fighting experiences, both here in the U.S. and overseas. I can’t wait to watch them face off next month.”

Far from the prototypical prospect, Hinton last appeared in October, when he knocked out Justin Moore in 2:11 at an Intimidation Cagefighting Event. The 38-year-old Ohioan, perfect in six professional appearances, also holds an April 2009 knockout against UFC and EliteXC veteran Jeff Cox.

“My age is just a number to me,” Hinton said. “I’m in better shape at 38 than I was at 19, and I’m a lot smarter, too. Bellator is the chance of a lifetime, and being a little older helps me realize that. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of.”

Hinton likes the steps Bellator has taken.

“I’m really impressed with everything Bellator’s doing, how they’re creating their own brand and doing something really unique rather than just following the crowd,” he said. “I also like that everyone in the tournament, including myself, is on their way up. That’s something you just don’t find with every big promotion.”

The Finland-based Tulirinta will carry a four-fight winning streak into his next match. The 30-year-old has done much of his damage on the M-1 Challenge circuit, where he has won six of seven fights, an 11-second KO against Anthony Ford included.

“Bellator is a really good next step for my career,” said Tulirinta, who moonlights as a police officer. “MMA is a really big thing in the USA, and I’m excited to put on a good show for the American fans. The guys that are in the tournament are really, really tough, but I think I’ll manage pretty well.”
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