Vitaly Minakov’s return to Bellator MMA will come in a rematch against Cheick Kongo, to determine who will fight the winner of Bellator’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix.
The second night of back-to-back cards at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut will see the return of former Bellator MMA heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov. After years in exile due to a contract dispute and his title having been stripped, Minakov and the promotion finally hashed things out earlier this year. That lead to Tuesday’s announcement that Minakov will face Cheick Kongo in a number one contender’s match on February 16.
The card, the second of a two-night stint at the Mohegan Sun, is topped by a welterweight grand prix bout featuring bitter rivals Paul Daley and Michael ‘Venom’ Page.
Kongo (29-10-2) has been tearing it up in Bellator’s heavyweight division, winning seven straight fights dating back to June 2015. His last two bouts have ended via knockout, with ‘The Darkness’ turning the lights out on Javy Ayala and former UFC heavyweight Timothy Johnson.
Kongo fought for the title once previously in Bellator, losing to Minakov at Bellator 115 in April 2014. The loss was one of only two Kongo has suffered under the Bellator banner. The fight was also Minakov’s last in the promotion, as his next seven bouts would take place in his native Russia.
Minakov (21-0), however, has not fought since December 2017. The implosion of Fight Nights Global, who he had been competing for, may have led in part to his return to Bellator. Regardless, fans come out the winner. Minakov remained the best heavyweight on the planet outside the UFC and Bellator in his time away, beating every name thrown at him. Since the Kongo fight, he holds wins over Josh Copeland, Bigfoot Silva, Tony Johnson, ‘The Chief’ Peter Graham, DJ Linderman and others.
The winner of Minakov vs. Kongo 2 on February 16 will take on the victor in Bellator’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix, the finale of which takes place at Bellator 214 on January 26.