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Vladimir Matyushenko inks deal with Bellator, but won't debut in four-man tournament

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Vladimir Matyushenko, the 42-year-old veteran who was recently cut from the UFC after back-to-back losses, isn't headed for a rocking chair just yet. In fact, he's signed a deal with the world's No. 2 promotion, Bellator, and will debut in a future non-tournament fight.

Bellator confirmed the signing on Thursday.

"Bellator is one of the biggest promotions in the world, and to be associated with them is an honor," Matyushenko said in a statement. "I am optimistic and excited to work with Bellator. The amount of respect and honor I felt from Bjorn [Rebney] and the entire Bellator team was tremendous, and getting into the Bellator cage and cementing my legacy as a Bellator World Champion is the only thing on my mind."

Matyushenko's career, which began in 1997, has seen him defeat notables including Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Pedro Rizzo, Tim Boetsch and Travis Wiuff. His lone title came back in 2007 while competing in the International Fight League, where he became the first and only light-heavyweight champion before the promotion folded.

He has had two separate runs in the UFC. In Sept. 2001, Matyushenko (26-7) fought for the UFC light-heavyweight champion, going five rounds but losing to Tito Ortiz in a unanimous decision.

After fighting for various other organizations, he returned in 2009, and had a seven-fight run before being released. Overall, he went 7-5 in 12 UFC bouts.

His last victory came two years ago, when before 55,724 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, he knocked out Jason Brilz in just 20 seconds.

Attila Vegh currently sits at the top of Bellator's 205-pound class as its champion, while another divisional notables include Emanuel Newton, Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal, Renato Sobral and Christian M'Pumbu.

Just a week ago, Bellator announced four-man tournaments in several divisions, including the light-heavyweight class, but Matyushenko will not be included in the field according to the promotion.

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