Bellator MMA has signed another free agent, adding heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov to the roster. News of the signing was first reported by MMAjunkie.com.
Kharitonov (23-5) has been plying his trade internationally since ending his fighting run with Strikeforce. The 16-year MMA veteran won eight bouts competing for PRIDE, including victories vs. UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Semmy Schilt and Pedro Rizzo. He also topped Alistair Overeem while competing in Japan.
In 2011, Kharitonov signed with Strikeforce and was thrust into the heavyweight grand prix – which was eventually won by current UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier. He lost to Josh Barnett via first round submission in the opening round of the GP.
Since that time, the Russian has fought in his home country, China and Kazakhstan, including a pair of back-to-back wins over Kenny Garner via TKO with M-1 Challenge.
Along with his 28 MMA bouts, the 6-foot-4 Golden Glory team fighter has competed 10 times in kickboxing, going 6-4 with four knockouts. Kharitonov owns 13 MMA wins via knockout and nine more via submission.
The Bellator heavyweight division is led by fellow Russian Vitaly Minakov, who holds the title but has not fought for the promotion in almost two years. Others include Cheick Kongo and Bobby Lashley. Overeem is another current free agent who has been rumored for a potential move to Bellator like former UFC standouts Benson Henderson, Phil Davis and Josh Thomson.
Bellator subsequently confirmed the signing, adding that it is an exclusive, multi-fight deal. Kharitonov remains on active duty with the Russian Airborne Troops. He previously worked under Bellator president Scott Coker while both were in Strikeforce.
“I have had the best seat in the house for some of Kharitonov’s heavyweight outings,” Coker said, “and I know Sergei (Kharitonov) can come in and make an immediate impact on our heavyweight division. He is an extremely skilled and experienced fighter who can end a fight in the blink of an eye, and we look forward to having him do just that inside the Bellator cage. Plus, he’s already competed at one ‘Dynamite’ event before, maybe he could do so again in the future!”