Bellator Middleweight Champion Alexander Shlemenko (50-7) is more than a 6-1 favorite to defeat former UFC Light-Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz (16-11-1) this Saturday at Bellator 120, but the Russian fighter has a hard time agreeing with the oddsmakers.
“I consider him to be a very dangerous opponent,” Shlemenko told SciFighting.com. “First of all, I think he’s at the age where a fighter is able to compete at full force. I hear that he’s gone through these procedures to cure all of his old injuries. When I hear him say that he feels like he’s a reborn fighter, I believe him. There were injuries that didn’t allow him to compete to the best of his abilities. I feel that right now he’s a very dangerous fighter and a big challenge for me.”
While Shlemenko is very aware of all the threats Ortiz poses to him, the fighter feels like Ortiz has one very distinct advantage over him. “I think that the most dangerous thing for me is that Tito has a size advantage.” Shlemenko admitted. “He’s heavier than me, he’s taller than me, and he has a longer reach.”
Much of the speculation around the Shlemenko vs. Ortiz bout is that Bellator wants Shlemenko to easily defeat Ortiz thus raising his stock with such a high profile victory. Shlemenko knows the importance of the fight, but for him this bout is very significant in dictating possible super-fights in the future.
“I will say that it will be one of the most important wins for me,” Shlemenko said. “This is not a title fight but it is a very important fight for myself. This fight will answer the question about my ability to compete at a higher weight class. I think that 185 is the best for me because I feel the best at this weight, however, if an interesting bout at 205 presents itself I would be very tempted to take the challenge.”
When asked of Rampage Jackson, King Mo, or Emmanuel Newton could be an interesting opponent for him at 205, Shlemenko played coy to the idea. “It’s a little bit premature for me to answer this question,” Shlemenko stated. “At this moment I weight 197, 198 pounds so it is difficult for me to say. After my fight with Tito I will be more able to answer this question.”
With all of his attention focused on Ortiz and away from possible superfights, Shlemenko sees only one way for his bout at Bellator 120 to end.
“I want to finish this fight. I do not want to see it go to a judge’s decision.”
For all of your Bellator 120 coverage, visit SciFighting.com.