Bellator MMA has been busy not just with signing prospects like Khabib’s cousin Usman Nurmagomedov, but also a paid of longtime UFC veterans.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported on Friday that the promotion has inked deals with lightweight Rustam Khabilov and bantamweight Brett Johns. Both men fought out their respective UFC contracts and were available as free agents.
Khabilov (24-4) went 10-3 in the UFC and is best known for his suplex KO of Vinc Pichel in his debut way back in 2012. At the height of his hype, he earned a headlining spot against Benson Henderson, losing by fourth-round submission back in 2014. His final nine UFC appearances all went the distance, none of them particularly memorable.
Johns (17-2) is certainly the bigger name and will surely make himself a major presence in Bellator’s bantamweight division. The Welshman won his first three bouts inside the Octagon, including a calf slicer against former title challenger Joe Soto. Consecutive losses to Aljamain Sterling and Pedro Munhoz set him back, but he rebounded with wins over Tony Gravely and Montel Jackson.
According to Johns, he said he was offered a fight in the UFC on November 7th, but he couldn’t come to financial terms and Bellator gave him an offer that he couldn’t refuse.
It is yet to be determined when Johns and Khabilov will make their debuts in the Bellator cage.