Jared Hess will compete in Bellator’s Season 5 middleweight tournament. | Photo: Dave Mandel

Bellator Fighting Championships Season 1 middleweight tournament finalist Jared Hess remembers well his encounter with Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 20 in San Antonio 16 months ago. Hess tore the lateral collateral ligament in his knee, necessitating surgery and a long recovery for the former Oklahoma high school state wrestling champion.

“The knee is doing great,” Hess told Sherdog.com. “It was and LCL injury. They replaced it with a cadaver.”

Hess (11-2-1) submitted Chris Bell with a triangle choke upon his return to the cage at Bellator 42 in April, but the 27-year-old Oklahoma City native still feels the sting of his loss to Shlemenko in the Season 2 tournament semifinals.

“I want Shlemenko,” he said. “I’m gonna tell [Bellator CEO] Bjorn [Rebney] that I want Shlemenko.”

The injury, of course, was not part of Hess’ plan. He graduated from college with no thought of a 9-to-5 job. Instead, Hess immediately began training to fight.

“I graduated with an industrial safety major and a minor in criminal justice,” he said. “I was going to be a police officer. It’s a great career and a lot of my friends were doing it, but I didn’t really want to do it. Once I finished school, I really didn’t want to go to work, so I started training and fighting.”

The strategy has worked well for Hess, who signed with Bellator and advanced to the promotion’s first middleweight tournament final in June 2009. There, a fourth-round doctor’s stoppage ended his run and made Hector Lombard a champion. Back-to-back wins over Keith Johnson and former International Fight League champion Ryan McGivern followed, setting up his ill-fated duel with Shlemenko.

Hess will enter the Season 5 middleweight tournament with a quarterfinal bout against WEC veteran Bryan Baker at Bellator 50 on Saturday at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla. A victory there could put him in position to face Shlemenko again. Hess also wants a second crack at Lombard, the only other man to defeat him.

“I was going in there trying to take him down [the first time we fought],” Hess said. “It just ended up not working out. I had never fought a guy like Hector. He reminds me of a mini-Mike Tyson.”

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