Former Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko is set to step foot in the Bellator for the first time in over a year-and-a-half, and he is coming back to take over the middleweight division once again.
His last Bellator bout against Melvin Manhoef ended in a knockout victory, but was later overturned when Shlemenko was suspended by the California State Athletic Commission for failing his in-competition drug test. What was a three-year suspension later became reduced to 18-months through the appeal process, and Shlemenko is back.
“Psychologically, it was a very difficult moment for me,” Shlemenko told MMA Fighting. “So now I have to overcome it and I have to come back and I have to prove once and for all for everyone who’s ever doubted me and I have to take back everything that was taken from me, everything that was mine.”
Shlemenko maintains innocence to this day, despite having an elevated testosterone ratio of 50:1.
“The most difficult part for me was that I was suspended, I was punished for something that I’ve never done,” he said. “Something I didn’t do.”
But he wants to just move past that, with his sights set on reconquering Bellator’s 185-pound division.
“Right now, my No. 1 priority is to have a very exciting comeback,” Shlemenko said. “I want to remind everyone about myself. I want to remind everyone what type of fighter I am.
“After that, of course. I want my belt back.”
The belt is currently held by Rafael Carvalho, but Shlemenko is not too worried about him, nor his championship performances.
“I can beat him,” Shlemenko said. “Stylistically, he’s very comfortable for me, because he’s a striker. I’m a better striker than he is. Also, when he fought Melvin Manhoef, I think it was a terrible decision. Manhoef was supposed to win the fight and Manhoef was supposed to be the champion. It was up to the judges, so [Carvalho is] the champ.”
Shlemenko is scheduled to headline Bellator 162 against ex-UFC fighter Kendall Grove.