The hits just keep on coming for Bellator 154, as veteran Pride heavyweight Sergei Kharitonov has been forced out of his promotional debut due to illness.
Bellator officials on Tuesday confirmed Kharitonov’s withdrawal following an initial tweet by ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto.
The loss of Kharitonov’s debut follows the cancellation of a high profile lightweight battle between former Bellator champion Michael Chandler and former Strikeforce titleholder Josh Thomson. The card has been ravaged, with the lone drawing card being the headlining bout pitting Phil Davis against King Mo Lawal.
Bellator 154 was also supposed to feature rising star Jordan Parsons, who died recently from injuries suffered in a hit-and-run accident in Delray Beach, Fla. His opponent, Adam Piccolotti, will instead face Ray Wood.
With Kharitonov out, the fight has been cancelled and a bout pitting Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos vs. Saad Awad has been elevated to co-main event status, Bellator officials told MMAWeekly.com. The Bellator 154 main card will now feature four bouts instead of the initial five.
The main card features Davis vs. Lawal, Cyborg vs. Awad, Piccolotti vs. Wood, and Rick Reger vs. Andre Fialho.
Having quietly racked up five consecutive victories after heading overseas when the UFC bought out Strikeforce, Kharitonov was looking forward to returning to the United States to fight. Bellator 154 takes place on Saturday in San Jose, Calif.
“Bellator is one of the top organizations in the world, so I’m happy to fight for them and come back and fight in the United States,” Kharitonov told MMAWeekly.com.
“I think (the fans) remember me from my big wins, my big fights (with the likes of Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum), and those fights made a big appetite for my career, but I’m here to make a new chapter in my career.
“I’m focused on becoming a Bellator champion.”
Kharitonov will now have to wait to get started on his run towards the Bellator title, which is currently held by fellow Russian Vitaly Minakov.