In the latest addition to its Season 2 roster, Bellator Fighting Championships announced today the acquisition of emerging MMA star Steve Carl, who will compete in the promotion’s upcoming eight-man welterweight tournament beginning in April.
Carl, 25, a U.S. Army sergeant who served in the Iraq War, took up MMA about five years ago while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, and has since compiled a professional record of 10-1. His rear naked choke submission of the previously undefeated Ivan Ivanoff at the M-1 Challenge in Bulgaria earlier this year won him international acclaim and drew the attention of matchmakers from all of the top MMA promotions.
“I was getting offers from the UFC and others, but Bellator was just a better opportunity for me,” Carl said. “I’m really excited about the exposure that Bellator’s TV deal will bring me and the chance to fight against some awesome competition.”
Carl, an Iowa native and recent college graduate, joins fellow top MMA talents Dan Hornbuckle, Jacob McClintock, “Judo” Jim Wallhead and former NCAA wrestling champion and U.S. Olympian Ben Askren in what was recently described by Yahoo! Sports as “a kick-butt welterweight tournament” that offers “good balance of experienced fighters … and up-and-comers with unlimited potential.”
“Steve Carl is yet another tremendous addition to our welterweight tournament,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “In addition to being a talented fighter, he also has an inspirational life story that will make it tough not to root for him once our second season begins April 8th. I’m proud to welcome him to our organization.”
Carl’s signing with Bellator marks the culmination of a harrowing three-year journey that, at one time, put his promising MMA career in jeopardy. In December 2006, he was involved in a horrific car crash on an icy eastern Iowa road that shattered his right leg and left doctors questioning whether he would ever walk again without the use of a cane. His career in fighting, they said, was almost certainly over.
Carl, though, was undeterred, and began a rigorous conditioning and physical therapy regimen that put him back in the cage in roughly 18 months. During his first few bouts after his return, he fought with a titanium rod implanted in his leg.
“After the accident, everyone wanted me to move on from MMA,” Carl said. “But I knew it in my heart beforehand that I had a chance to make it to the top and I didn’t want to give that up. Now I’ve got the chance to show what I can do in front of the whole country on national TV.”
Each of Bellator’s 24 fights during Seasons 2 and 3 will be distributed live in primetime on Thursday nights on FOX Sports Net and its regional sports network affiliates. The top moments from each week’s live events will then be condensed into an action-packed 30-minute highlight show, broadcast every Saturday night, late night, on NBC. A one-hour highlight show will air in Spanish on Telemundo every Saturday night from midnight to 1 a.m.