Russia’s Vadim Nemkov currently holds the record for title defenses in Bellator’s light heavyweight division at three — but in the not-so distant future, his time in the weight class could be over.
Nemkov (16-2, 1NC) is widely considered one of if not the best light heavyweights on the planet, regardless of promotion. He’s set to return at Bellator 297 on June 16, 2023, taking on Yoel Romero, a fight pushed back from its original February date.
The light heavyweight champ doesn’t expect to see many new wrinkles from Romero, and noted that the Cuban has not used his wrestling much of late, despite holding an Olympic silver medal from the 2000 games in Sydney.
“I’m preparing myself for him like for everybody else. Nothing special. I’m not expecting an easy job, the same like for the last opponents,” Nemkov told Cageside Press in a recent exclusive interview, and adding that in regards to the wrestling, “If we look back on his last few fights, he’s wrestled not too much. So I’m not worried about it.”
Defending his title is the immediate goal for Vadim Nemkov. But having competed at heavyweight for Japan’s RIZIN prior to his Bellator run, Nemkov’s future could lie there.
“Really, that would be interesting for me. Because cutting the weight is not so easy as before. And also, Valentin Moldavsky [Nemkov’s teammate] lost his last fight, and no one knows when he’s going to fight for the title in heavyweight again,” Nemkov told us when asked about the possibility of pursuing a second title, up a division. “So for me, it will be interesting, so the answer is yes.”
“The most important part of this is because it’s hard to cut weight,” he added. That’s something Nemkov reiterated when asked if a move to heavyweight would be permanent.
“Honestly, every time when I’m cutting weight, after the fight, I’m feeling not well. So if I make the decision to go to heavyweight, I will stay in there.”
Of course, first up comes Yoel Romero in Chicago. And should Nemkov stick around 205lbs a little longer, there’s another fight on the Bellator 297 card that could determine who’s next in line: Phil Davis vs. Corey Anderson. Nemkov has fought both men twice, however, besting Davis on both occasions. His first fight with Anderson was infamously stopped due to an accidental clash of heads that resulted in a No Contest— but Nemkov claimed victory, and the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix championship, in the rematch.
Because of that, Nemkov isn’t exactly bursting at the seams to fight either man again.
“To be honest, I would prefer someone new. New challenge for me,” said Nemkov. “Because I have fought with both of them; I won [against] Phil Davis both times, three rounds, five rounds. And the last fight with Corey, I was dominating all the fight. So to say honestly, I would prefer somebody new.”
Watch our full interview with Bellator MMA light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov above. Nemkov faces Yoel Romero at Bellator 297 at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, IL on June 16, 2023.