An undefeated fighter from Cincinnati and a police officer from Scandinavia are the latest additions to Bellator Fighting Championships’ upcoming Season 2 lightweight tournament.
The two fighters — Janne Tulirinta (12-3) and Chad Hinton (6-0) — join Ferrid Kheder, Mike Ricci and Carey Vanier in the nationally televised tournament, which begins April 8th. The last three 155 lbs. fighters will be announced later this month.
Bellator will also conduct tournaments at 145, 170 and 185 lbs. during its second season, which will be televised on FOX Sports Net, NBC and Telemundo. Winners of each tournament will earn the rank of No. 1 contender and a chance to face off in a title bout against Bellator’s Season 1 champions.
“Janne and Chad come from very different backgrounds but they have one thing in common: They both have the tools to impact our lightweight division,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Again, our team has assembled a group of fighters with different skill sets, different backgrounds and a wide range of fighting experiences both here in the U.S. and overseas. I can’t wait to watch them face off next month.”
Hinton, an Ohio native and father of a 7-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter, has been involved in fighting sports since his youth but took his first pro MMA fight just over two years ago at the age of 36. He drew widespread attention last April with his second round KO of two-time UFC veteran Jeff Cox at Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena. His most recent fight was a first round KO of 28-year-old Justin Moore in October.
“My age is just a number to me,” Hinton said. “I’m in better shape at 38 than I was at 19 and I’m a lot smarter too. Bellator is the chance of a lifetime and being a little older helps me realize that. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of.”
“I’m really impressed with everything Bellator’s doing, how they’re creating their own brand and doing something really unique rather than just following the crowd. I also like that everyone in the tournament, including myself, is on their way up. That’s something you just don’t find with every big promotion.”
Tulirinta, meanwhile, has risen to international prominence over the past two years through his participation in the M-1 Challenge. The 30-year-old native of Finland has compiled a record of 6-1 in the promotion with all but one of his wins coming via TKO or submission.
His talent was on display during one of his most recent fights—at an M-1 event in Kansas City this past June—when he took just 11 seconds to drop welterweight Anthony Ford and finish him with strikes on the ground.
“Bellator is a really good next step for my career,” said Tulirinta, a father of a 6-month old daughter who moonlights as a police officer. “MMA is a really big thing in the USA and I’m excited to put on a good show for the American fans. The guys that are in the tournament are really, really tough, but I think I’ll manage pretty well.”