MMA: JUN 14 Bellator 297
Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A key title fight was noticeably missing during the recent announcement of the first-ever Professional Fighters League (PFL) vs. Bellator MMA championship mega event, which is set to go down inside Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Sat., Feb. 24, 2024.

PFL’s Light Heavyweight champion, Impa Kasanganay, was not matched up against Vadim Nemkov, who was the last man to wear the 205-pound strap for Bellator MMA. Instead, Kasanganay will drop down to face Johnny Eblen for the Middleweight title, while Nemkov will move up to Heavyweight to battle Bruno Cappelozza.

One day removed from the announcement, it was later revealed that Nemkov has vacated his 205-pound title. During a previous conversation with MMA Junkie, the hard-hitting Russian expressed his interest in pursing gold at 265 pounds, citing his previous success at 205 pounds and his comfort level fighting at a higher weight.

“I’m getting older and every fight is getting harder for me to cut weight,” Nemkov said. “Let’s say that before I felt comfortable when I was training at 103kg (227 lbs). Now, I feel even more comfortable at 106-108kg (233-238 lbs).

“When I train right now, it’s 103kg. I feel less strong and dangerous. It’s not the same as I am at 106-108kg. It’s a new challenge for me. I’ve done everything I can at light heavyweight. Now, it’s a new challenge to go up in weight and get another title. At 205, I don’t see anything new for me.”

Nemkov went undefeated as a Bellator Light Heavyweight, amassing a 9-0-1 record. He won the title at Bellator 244 in Aug. 2020 by knocking out Ryan Bader in the middle of round two (see it here). He then went on to enter the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix and successfully defended his title three times, winning the tournament with a solid performance over Corey Anderson. He was last seen defending his title a record-breaking fourth time by defeating Yoel Romero at Bellator 297 back in June 2023.

Nemkov’s decision could prove to be a fruitful one. While Ryan Bader currently holds Bellator’s title, the landscape could chance drastically in 2024. Should Bader successfully defend his belt in the main event of the “champions vs. champions” card against PFL champion, Renan Ferreira, it could set up a rematch between the two big men.

Of course, the big prize all heavyweights under the PFL/Bellator banner are gunning for is one against Francis Ngannou, who has put his MMA pursuits on hold to continue his boxing career, which has proven to be monetarily fruitful.

Ngannou will face off against Anthony Joshua on March 8, 2024, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with the winner possibly getting a title fight against the winner of the Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk for professional boxing’s undisputed Heavyweight title later in the year. That means that “The Predator” likely won’t return to the MMA cage until late 2024 or early 2025. For now, however, all Nemkov can do is focus on the task at hand, which is a showdown against a hard-hitting big man with a 5-1 record under the PFL banner.

Author: Staff

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