Bellator MMA has a new king at light heavyweight. A changing of the guard occurred last night at the promotion’s Bellator 244 event from the Mohegan Sun Arena, with incumbent champion, Ryan Bader dropping his 205-pound gold to emerging Russian talent, Vadim Nemkov.
A stunning second-round head kick following by a barrage of ground strikes was enough to dislodge still heavyweight best, Bader from his light heavyweight stomping ground. Nemkov, cornered by and a notable protégé of sport icon, Fedor Emelianenko, extended his undefeated streak to seven outings – scoring undisputed gold just five fights into his organizational stint.
With the promotion’s North American counterpart, the UFC currently without an undisputed light heavyweight titleholder since Jon Jones’ recent vacating – Nemkov has given his theory as to why he believes he’s the greatest 205-pounder on the face of the earth following last night’s win.
“I feel like with all the changes going on in the 205-pound division and the calibre of opponent I just beat (Ryan Bader), I feel like I’m number one right now,” Nemkov told MMA Junkie at last night’s press conference through a translator. “To back up why I’m saying this, I didn’t just go through five-rounds of a fight. I finished a top, top contender, in a decisive manner in two-rounds. I feel like I’m number one.“
In terms of his potential next outing and premier attempted title defence, Nemkov has floated the idea of a rematch opposite former champion, Phil Davis, or former UFC titleholder, Lyoto Machida – who themselves re-run their rivalry at an event on September 11th. One potential suitor ruled out for the time being by Nemkov, is recent signing, longtime UFC contender, Corey Anderson.
“The situation is a little unclear right now,” Nemkov explained “(Lyoto) Machida is fighting Phil Davis, so I’d say probably the winner of that fight will be my first title defence. I know Corey Anderson just signed, but I feel like it’d be wrong for him to get a title shot coming over from the UFC. I feel like he should probably have a fight before that. At the end of the day, I’ll fight whoever they put in front of me.“
Nemkov and the aforenoted, Davis initially met back at Bellator 209 in December 2018 – with the 28-year-old Sambo world champion scoring a close split decision win. The narrow victory marked Nemkov’s third win under the Bellator banner, following prior victories over former titleholder, Liam McGeary, and one-time PFL tournament victor, Philipe Lins.
Earning last night’s crack at Bader, Nemkov defeated former middleweight kingpin, Rafael Carvalho’s in the Brazilian’s light heavyweight bow at Bellator 230 last October in Milan, Italy.