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Bellator announces signing of undefeated Olympian and former PFL heavyweight champion Ali Isaev

Promotion also heralds the re-signing six more world-class athletes, including Kana Watanabe, Tyrell Fortune, Gadzhi Rabadanov, more.
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LOS ANGELES — Bellator MMA today announced the signing of undefeated Russian heavyweight Ali Isaev (9-0) to an exclusive, multi-fight contract in a move sure to bolster the promotion's heavyweight division. Additionally, Bellator is pleased to share the re-signing of four ranked fighters, an Irish fan-favorite, and a top prospect to exclusive, multi-fight contract extensions.

Bellator MMA President Scott Coker said of Isaev, "I am very pleased to have a fighter the caliber of Ali Isaev join our heavyweight division, a weight class filled with world-class fighters and elite prospects alike. Isaev's elite wrestling pedigree includes an appearance in the 2008 Olympics, and he has achieved great success in MMA as evidenced by championship run at his prior promotion. I expect Isaev to make an immediate impact in the division and foresee many compelling matchups for him." 

Isaev, 38, earned a reputation as a fearsome wrestler prior to transitioning to a career in mixed martial arts. Representing Azerbaijan, Isaev earned bronze and gold medals at the 2009 and 2008 FILA European Championships, respectively. He notably competed at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing as a freestyle wrestler. As a mixed martial artist, Isaev boasts an undefeated record of 9-0 replete with four knockouts amongst his dominant performances.

Bellator also announced the re-signing of four ranked contenders, No. 2-ranked flyweight Kana Watanabe (11-1), No. 5-ranked heavyweight Tyrell Fortune (12-2), No. 10-ranked lightweight Gadzhi Rabadanov (18-4-2), and No. 10-ranked light heavyweight Sullivan Cauley (4-0). Additionally, Irish fan-favorite Brian Moore (15-9) and London-based Hungarian Norbert Novenyi Jr. (5-0) have re-upped with the promotion.

"We take great pride in our ability to sign and develop the best available talent, but equally as important is retaining them," said Coker. "I'm thrilled that we were able to re-sign these great fighters and look forward to watching them compete in the Bellator cage for years to come."

In a move that solidifies Bellator's top-flight women's flyweight division, the promotion has re-signed Japanese star Watanabe (11-1) to a multi-fight contract. Watanabe, formerly of RIZIN and DEEP JEWELS fame, has looked every part of a title contender through her first fights in Bellator. The No. 2 flyweight and No. 8 pound-for-pound talent in the promotion won three of her first four outings under the Bellator banner, finishing Brazilian Ilara Joanne (10-6) with strikes and Denise Kielholtz (6-4) by second-round submission, as well as outpointing Colombia's Alejandra Lara (9-6). Watanabe will have a vested interest in Bellator 288's co-main event between flyweight champion Liz Carmouche (17-7) and her rival, Julianna Velasquez (12-1); Watanabe's lone professional loss came to Carmouche, and she would be eager to avenge it with the Bellator world championship on the line. 

Fortune (12-2), 32, first signed with Bellator in 2016 as part of the promotion's famed "Fab Five" of elite wrestlers-turned MMA prospects. The 2013 NCAA D-II heavyweight champion and Wrestler of the Year for Grand Canyon University and two-time NJCAA champion at Clackamas Community College has found equally remarkable success as an MMA fighter. Fortune has spent his entire 15-fight career with Bellator, climbing to fifth in the latest heavyweight rankings. He has won four of his last five, including TKO finishes of Jack May (11-8), Rakim Cleveland (21-15-1) and Matt Mitrione (13-9).

After rattling off three dominant victories to begin his Bellator career, 29-year-old Rabadanov (18-4-2) will remain a fixture of the promotion's marquee lightweight division for the foreseeable future after re-signing a multi-fight deal. The Khabib Nurmagomedov protege and former GFC interim lightweight champion stopped Daniel Carey (7-6) with strikes in the first round of his Bellator debut, handed top prospect Jay Jay Wilson (9-1) the lone loss of his professional career, and halted Bobby King's (12-5) two-fight win streak at Bellator 283. The three impressive victories elevated Rabadanov to 10th in the most recent lightweight rankings, making him a compelling contender for Bellator's recently announced, upcoming lightweight grand prix. 

It is hard to imagine a better start to a career than former Arizona State University wrestler "Sully" Cauley (4-0) has had through his first four professional outings under the Bellator banner. The 26-year-old protege of Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (30-7) has finished all four of his fights, including a win over divisional darkhorse Ben Parrish (5-2), by first-round knockout. Cauley's emphatic performances vaulted him to 10th in the latest light heavyweight rankings, showcasing just how well-received his skillset has been by rankings panelists and MMA fans alike. After dispatching of 25-fight veteran Tyson Jeffries (14-11) at Bellator 284, Cauley is primed for a step up in competition as he continues the next chapter of what promises to be a remarkable combat sports career with Bellator.

Following a raucous night in Dublin two weeks ago for "Bellator 285: Henderson vs. Queally," Bellator is excited to announced the re-signing of fan-favorite Irish bantamweight Brian "The Pikeman" Moore (15-9). A Bellator fighter since 2016, the SBG Ireland product looked sensational in a three-round drubbing of Brazil's Arivaldo Lima da Silva (19-11) in front of a roaring hometown crowd at the 3Arena. The win was Moore's fourth in his last six appearances, and a spot on Bellator's return to Dublin in February could be a fitting opportunity for Moore to compete for the first time on his new contract. Speaking about his new deal, Moore said: "I love fighting for Bellator and I'm thrilled with the new contract. They provide us fighters with a huge platform to showcase our work while allowing us to provide for our families."

Just days after Hungary's Adam Borics (18-2) put his native country on the MMA map when he challenged pound-for-pound great at reigning Bellator featherweight champion Patricio "Pitbull" Freire (34-5) at Bellator 286, Bellator continues its investment into the European MMA landscape with the re-signing of Borics' countryman, "Magic" Novenyi Jr. (5-0). Novenyi Jr., 22, is one of the brightest middleweight prospects in the sport. Novenyi Jr. comes from an elite combat sports familial pedigree; his father, Nortber Novenyi Sr., was the 1980 Olympics Greco-Roman heavyweight champion and a two-time kickboxing world champion. Novenyi Jr.'s sparkling undefeated record includes four submission victories and a unanimous decision win over highly-touted Irishman Will Fleury (11-3). Recently recovered from a leg injury that has kept him out of action since 2020, Novenyi Jr. will be eager to return to the Bellator cage for the first time on his new multi-fight contract in the year to come.