Once-beaten Brazilian Thiago “Big Monster” Santos will take the place of the injured Mike “300” Hayes in the semifinals of Bellator Fighting Championships’ fifth-season heavyweight tournament, promotion officials announced Monday.
Santos (Pictured) will step in to face undefeated Bulgarian sambist Blagoi Ivanov at Bellator 56, which takes place Oct. 29 at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kan., and also features Eric Prindle taking on Ron Sparks.
After earning a split decision over Neil Grove on Oct. 1 in Lake Charles, La., Hayes was issued a 60-day medical suspension by the Louisiana Boxing and Wrestling Commission due to a fractured orbital bone sustained during the fight. Santos, who was slated to face Ivanov in the quarterfinals before visa issues forced his withdrawal, made his stateside debut at Saturday’s Bellator 53 and earned his tourney reserve spot with a quick rear-naked-choking of Josh Burns.
A jiu-jitsu practitioner by trade, Santos cut his teeth brawling in Rio de Janeiro’s underground Rio Heroes league, winning the vale tudo promotion’s one-night heavyweight tournament in 2007 with a trio of finishes. The 24-year-old has since tasted defeat only once, against experienced Russian Alexey Oleinik, and currently rides a three-fight win streak.
Best known for defeating Fedor Emelianenko in the 2008 World Sambo Championships, Ivanov holds a perfect 5-0 record in MMA, including a win over former Fedor foe Kazuyuki Fujita. Ivanov made his Bellator debut in March, blasting through William Penn with punches, and advanced to the tournament semifinals with an Oct. 1 throttling of Zak Jensen.