Dana White may be dismissive of Scott Coker’s talk that Bellator now has the “best light heavyweight division on the planet,” but there’s no denying that the UFC has provided the promotion with a fair number of interesting and elite talents over the past couple of years. Most recently, the UFC made headlines with the release of multiple-time title contender Yoel Romero.
Sure the ‘Soldier of God’ may be well onto the wrong side of 40 at this point, but he’s also fresh off a tightly contested title fight against middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, his fourth bid (missed weight aside) for a piece of UFC hardware in the last three years. After some baffling disinterest from Coker & Co., Bellator was quick to snap Romero up to compete in a light heavyweight division that now includes ex-UFC vets Corey Anderson, Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Anthony Johnson, and Lyoto Machida.
Coker recently spoke about the UFC’s latest cuts and what it’s meant for the promotion in an interview with MMA Fighting.
“You’re talking about a couple of guys that really made a difference in their division,” Coker said of the recent UFC releases. “I’m surprised they didn’t want to keep them. To me, it’s a great opportunity for us.
“To be honest, I think we’re a better fit for those guys. They’ll have a great home here. I think they’re going to be extremely happy here. A couple of the guys that I talked to, they wanted to make the move. They wanted to come to Bellator. People see when they get here how we treat the fighters and how it’s a family atmosphere. Yes, it is a business so we run like a business but it’s really run a lot different than other organizations.”
Coker once again reiterated his belief that Bellator now has a better light heavyweight division than the UFC (a narrative helped immensely by Jon Jones’ recent move to heavyweight). But despite the talent they’ve picked up out of the Octagon – and of all their fighters – the Bellator president is all in on Vadim Nemkov being the best 205er, not just in his promotion, but in the world.
“First of all, I think [Vadim] Nemkov is the best fighter on the planet at 205 until he gets beat,” Coker said of the current talent on his roster. “I think that’s going to be my position. Because I’ve never seen Ryan Bader get dismantled like the way he did against Nemkov.
“You’re talking about a guy that can wrestle, can strike, got a complete game. Top pound-for-pound rated in the world. Top rated in the 205-pound weight class and he won a heavyweight tournament. He’s a serious athlete, this guy is a killer. Nemkov just kind of did his thing with him.”
No date for Nemkov’s return to action has been set and there’s currently little clarity as to just who his next opponent might be. Coker recently suggested that Bellator will be talking to Bader, as the former light heavyweight champ has expressed his desire for a rematch of his August defeat before returning to the heavyweight division. However, considering the number of recent high profile signings, it seems as though the promotion could go any of a number of directions for the Russian’s first title defense.
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