Anthony Johnson Withdraws from Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

Anthony Johnson (Rumble), Bellator 258
Anthony "Rumble" Johnson (right), Bellator 258 Credit: Bellator MMA

Anthony Johnson is out of his Bellator 268 title fight against Vadim Nemkov — and out of the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix.

“Rumble” was forced to withdraw from the tournament, which kicked off earlier this year, due to an undisclosed illness. MMA Junkie was first to report the news Saturday. Cageside Press confirmed the development with multiple sources familiar with the situation.

Nemkov is expected to remain on the card.

It’s a stroke of bad luck for the ongoing 205lb grand prix, which already saw Yoel Romero forced out of a quarterfinal match-up with Rumble. Johnson (23-6) went on to defeat short-notice replacement Jose Augusto, but not before being rocked early in the fight.

His semifinal match-up was to be against champ Nemkov on October 16. Nemkov beat ex-champion Phil Davis to move forward in the grand prix.

Romero, meanwhile, fights Davis tonight in the main event of Bellator 266. Should he prevail, it might be tempting to book a quick turnaround and give him the title shot. Alternately, Julius Anglickas vs. Karl Albrektsson is already set to take place on the Bellator 268 card, with either men potentially being a serviceable replacement. Anglickas (10-1) sits on an eight-fight win streak, with three straight under the Bellator MMA banner. Albrektsson (12-3) has won three straight, and has history with Nemkov: he holds an early career win over the champ, and more recently, beat brother Viktor.

Bellator 268 takes place October 16, 2021 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The other light heavyweight grand prix semifinal, between Ryan Bader and Corey Anderson, is also set for the card.