Former Olympian, Judo master Ferrid Kheder signs with Bellator

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CHICAGO, Ill. (January 21, 2010) Bellator Fighting Championships put yet another piece in place for its second season today with the announcement that Judo master and former Olympian Ferrid “Hurricane” Kheder will compete in the promotion’s upcoming lightweight tournament.

Kheder, who placed seventh in the Judo competition at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, has quickly compiled a solid 16-5 MMA record since giving up Judo to fight full-time in the cage just three years ago. His transition to MMA was put into overdrive in 2008 when he began training under the famed Shawn Tompkins. Since the two teamed up, Kheder has won 11 of his 12 fights.

“I see Ferrid as a real star that’s just waiting to explode,” Tompkins said. “He’s one of those guys who’s flown under the radar so far, but in the meantime he’s been able to focus on learning how to incorporate all the other MMA skills into his judo. With that combination, I think he’s really going to be tough to beat.”

Kheder is the second fighter to be named by Bellator as a competitor in the promotion’s upcoming eight-man lightweight tournament. The other is 5-0 Mike Ricci, a regular training partner to Georges Saint-Pierre.

Bellator will also conduct tournaments at 145, 170 and 185 lbs. with the winners of this season’s tournaments being declared No. 1 contenders to Bellator’s current roster of champions. Each of Bellator’s 24 events during Seasons 2 and 3 will be televised on FOX Sports Net, NBC and Telemundo. Kheder is the second former Olympian who will be participating in Bellator’s Season 2 tournaments. The other is welterweight Ben Askren, a former Olympic wrestler.

“Ferrid Kheder is a world-class athlete who has already competed at the highest levels and now he’s working with one of MMA’s top coaches to further hone his skills,” said Bellator founder and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “Ferrid’s career has kicked into high-gear over his last dozen fights and he will be very tough for anyone in our 155 tournament.”

The 35-year-old Kheder was born in France to a Spanish mother and Tunisian father. He holds a third-degree judo black belt as well as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt.

He began training judo at the age of four and, over the course of his 25-plus-year career, has won 13 national titles, eight continental medals and two continental titles in Europe. He joined the French National Team in 1993 at the age of 18 and eventually represented that country at the 2000 Olympics, where he finished seventh. Soon after, he moved to the Tunisian National Team, where he stayed until 2004.

Around that time, Kheder contemplated giving up fighting sports altogether but soon became convinced that he could enjoy a career renaissance of sorts by switching to MMA.

Accordingly, he moved to Sydney and began training with Hector Lombard, now Bellator’s reigning World Middleweight Champion. He came to the United States in 2007 and landed with Team Tompkins about a year later. He now trains at Tompkins’ TapouT gym in Las Vegas.

“I’m a judo guy through and through, but I’ve adapted my skills to MMA,” he said. “I’ve worked hard on my ground game and my striking and I believe I’m ready to take it to the next level. Bellator is a great promotion … they respect their athletes and put on some great shows. I’m very excited for the opportunity.”

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