It's not a big-name signing, but one that could be crucial down the road.
Bellator MMA inked RFA featherweight champion Justin Lawrence to a contract, the organization announced Friday. Lawrence, who is still just 24 years old, is a solid prospect and former The Ultimate Fighter Live competitor.
Lawrence (7-2) has won three in a row since being cut from the UFC in October 2013. He won the RFA title by beating Mark Dickman last August and successfully defended the belt against Sam Toomer last week via first-round TKO.
The Alliance MMA product fell to Cristiano Marcello in the first round of TUF Live in 2012, but rebounded to defeat John Cofer with a headkick knockout in the first round at the TUF Finale. Lawrence then fell in back-to-back fights against Max Holloway and Daniel Pineda.
The St. Louis native is a black belt in Shotokan karate and also a former Golden Gloves champion.
Lawrence joins a solid Bellator featherweight division headed by champion Patricio Freire. Georgi Karakhanyan, Daniel Straus, Pat Curran and Daniel Weichel are also among the top 145-pounders in Bellator.
Lawrence's teammate Phil Davis, one of the best light heavyweights in the world, also signed with Bellator this week.