Russia has become a focal point of Bellator's expansion, but one of their prospects has run into a string of legal troubles before ever setting foot in the US. On August 19th, 2011 Rasul Mirzaev was directly involved in the death of Igor Agafonov, with whom he entered an altercation outside a nightclub in Moscow. MMAMania had a complete rundown on the story in an interview with him back in February.
Initially charged with murder, he was ultimately convicted of manslaughter with everyone, including the victim's family, accepting that it was not the punch which killed Agafonov but the fall. On November 27, 2012 he was released, having already served his sentence.
Mirzaev was 5-0 and hoping to make a name for himself stateside in Bellator's Featherweight tournament. Despite spending months in prison, Mirzaev has made it clear that he is unsure of his current contract status with Bellator, and that he wishes to continue his fighting careers both in combat Sambo and in MMA with the eventual goal to compete internationally at the highest levels. And now it looks like he's taken the first step in that rebuilding process.
Last Saturday he returned to the cage at the Great Battle Tournament in Almaty, Kazakhstan winning by unanimous decision.
Великая битва: Ержан "Арлан" Естанов-Расул "Черный тигр" Мирзаев. (via Andre Neka)
Considering Bellator's policy of allowing fighters to compete outside North America while under contract, this fight does not necessarily mean he's been released. And considering their willingness to work with Maiquel Falcao and Brett Rogers, it's not terribly unlikely that we could see him competing stateside within the next year. He's currently training with Phuket Top Team in Thailand, home of Bellator fighter Anthony Leone.
For a complete rundown, including footage,of the original incident, here's Leland Roling's piece from August 2011. The video included suggests that Mirzaev was the aggressor in the original crime, but reports during the trial suggest that Agafonov had been harassing him previous to the attack.
What do you think? Given the nature of his crimes, should he have a home in a major promotion, or in MMA at all? Or should Bellator take it's increased visibility more seriously and close the door on fighters with a history of violence outside the cage?