Bellator MMA has signed another big name, this one both literally and figuratively. Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson is the latest high profile signing to the world’s #2 MMA league.
Nelson began fighting in 2004 and by 2007 was the IFL heavyweight champion. He entered the UFC via The Ultimate Fighter reality television series, winning every exhibition bout, including vs. Kimbo Slice. That fight remains the most watched in TUF history.
He went 9-10 in the UFC, winning five Performance Bonuses along the way, and became a fan favorite. However, he and president Dana White frequently clashed, sometimes bluntly. In 2016 Nelson went 2-1, with the sole loss being a controversial Split Decision to Derrick Lewis.
He dropped a decision to Alexander Volkov last month, and is now off to Bellator MMA. While Nelson is now 40, heavyweights peak later, the division in Bellator does not have the UFC’s depth, and the promotion has an excellent record of good ratings with fighters who were no longer in the prime.
The Bellator heavyweight title has been vacant since May 14, 2016, when Vitaly Minakov was stripped after failing to make a defense. He has fought exclusively for the well-funded EFN/Fight Nights Global.
Nelson will undoubtedly be looking for a title shot, which could come via a tournament format. Other notable Bellator heavyweights include Sergei Kharitonov, Cheick Kongo, Bobby Lashley, Matt Mitrione, Justin Wren, and potentially Fedor Emelianenko.