CHICAGO – Alexander Shabliy continues to dominate the Bellator lightweight division, as a teammate looks to do the same in the UFC.
Following his clinical striking performance in victory over Patricky Freire (25-12 MMA, 16-10 BMMA) at Friday’s Bellator 301 at Wintrust Arena, Shabliy (24-3 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) described what it’s like having Arman Tsarukyan as one of his main training partners during camp.
“Arman (is a great) guy,” Shabliy told MMA Junkie and other reporters at a post-fight news conference. “Arman is my friend. I train with Arman. I think Arman wins (vs) Beneil Dariush. I think (he’s) a good wrestler, a good striker. Arman will be champion of UFC.”
Shabliy, 30, has championship aspirations of his own – just in a different promotion. Though Bellator’s future is clouded, Shabliy could fight for the title should the promotion book future events and finish out its ongoing lightweight grand prix.
The win over Freire advanced Shabliy to the tournament finals, though it’s unclear who his opposition would be once there. Bellator lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov recently defeated Brent Primus on the other side of the bracket – but proceeded to test positive for a prohibited substance thereafter.
Shabliy is impartial as to who he should face next, but thinks the promotion should’ve made his fight vs. Freire an undisputed title fight considering the unusual circumstances.
“I don’t think it should be an interim or temporary belt because as we know Usman had a situation,” Shabliy said. “Unfortunately, rules are rules. I think the belt should still be in the tournament. I’m saying that he still might become a champion. Right now, we’re talking about the tournament. To be fair, the belt should be between us. We’ll see how it plays out. Maybe Usman will come back. Maybe not. I can’t really tell, but I’m ready for it. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. … Usman, Brent, Patrick, Tofiq, it doesn’t matter who. I will be champion. My dream is this belt.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 301.