Former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov will step into the cage for the first time in two years at Bellator 269 this weekend.
“These last two years, they were alright. It’s definitely a shame that I couldn’t compete for these two years, but the situation was really hard,” Minakov (22-1) told media outlets during this week’s Bellator 269 media day. The Russian ex-champ noted that “COVID made visa applications much more difficult, but everyone’s happy that Bellator now came here to Moscow.”
Despite the time away, Minakov seems to have no concern about being in fighting shape for his bout with Said Sowma this Saturday. “Regardless of the fact of that two year pause, the last two and a half months of training were perfect,” he stated. “I realized through those two and a half months that I’m still in shape, I’m still intact, and I’m ready to go.”
With the time off, Minakov has been left outside of Bellator’s official rankings. He downplayed that this week, saying that “I don’t care at all in fact where in the rankings I’m going to be after the fight. What is important to me is that I keep on continuing in my career in MMA in Bellator, and once I get a hang of that, I’m more than positive that I’m going to end up on the top of the list.”
Minakov had no thought of leaving the sport during his time away, he later added. Whether or not he remains with Bellator if he’s unable to obtain a visa moving forward is another issue. Several years back, Minakov found himself embroiled in a contract dispute with the promotion, and wound up fighting at home in Russia from 2015 onward, not returning to Bellator until 2019.
“It’s been quite a journey of reaching that pro level of fighting here at Bellator. Obviously it is quite difficult with the situation of the American visa not being available. Of course if the promotion is not going to come to Russia any time soon, it’s going to be difficult,” Minakov said. But his plan, he added, is “to stay at Bellator and to stay in this sport, and try to work back the American visa into this whole situation. But obviously if that’s not going to happen, than in this case clearly I’m not going to be sitting around and just waiting for another Bellator promotion in Moscow.”
Watch the full Bellator 269 media day appearance from Vitaly Minakov above. The event takes place this Saturday, October 23 at the VTB Arena in Moscow, Russia. More coverage can be found below.