Nemkov Exposes Romero’s ‘Legacy’ Title Shot

Bellator 277 and 279 press conference
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“I don’t think he’s going to wrestle with me. He’s older and at his age wrestling is too hard. So, I think he’s going to try to counterpunch, he will try to make explosive moves. That’s my vision of the fight.”

Vadim Nemkov might be the very best Light Heavyweight on Earth.

It’s been seven years and counting since one of Russia’s finest tasted defeat. Capturing Bellator gold from Ryan Bader in Aug. 2020, Nemkov (16-2, 1 no contest) has already broken the division’s title defense record in the promotion, scoring his third in Nov. 2022 over Corey Anderson via a unanimous decision.

Nemkov’s title victory led him into the million-dollar Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament where several exciting match ups were possible. One of the more notable theoretical pairings included ex-Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title challenger, Yoel Romero, who was supposed to take part in the festivities until he was deemed medically unfit to compete. Romero has earned victories over Alex Polizzi and Melvin Manhoef since then and is now set to challenge Nemkov at Bellator 297 on June 16, 2023, in Chicago, Illinois.

From the champion’s point of view, there isn’t much merit to the “Soldier of God’s” title shot, however.

“I took this fight because he’s a huge star of MMA,” Nemkov told MMA Mania. “He’s got a good history, he’s got legacy. But he didn’t win over anyone in the Top 5 or Top 10. That’s because of his history. He’s very popular, he’s a star of MMA. That’s why he got the fight with me.”

Nemkov, 30, has already faced a who’s who of talented notable names throughout his 19-fight career, so Romero is nothing new for the Combat Sambo dynamo.

While he has sneakily strong grappling abilities, Nemkov has primarily devasted his foes on the feet and that’s where he expects the Romero bout to play out despite Romero’s Olympic-level wrestling factoring into the match up.

“I don’t think he’s going to wrestle with me,” Nemkov said. “He’s older and at his age wrestling is too hard. So, I think he’s going to try to counterpunch, he will try to make explosive moves. That’s my vision of the fight.

“No doubt he is a very tough fighter,” he added. “But in my ranking, he’d be in the fourth place after Phil Davis, Corey Anderson, and Ryan Bader.”

Nemkov will only continue to make history as he keeps winning, extending his Bellator Light Heavyweight title defense record. Thanks to the departure of Jon Jones from the weight class in 2020, Nemkov became a top pick amongst the community as the best 205-pound fighter globally. That argument is still intact as UFC’s title has been a hot potato over the past three years.

Ultimately, there may be bigger fish to fry after so many more title defenses.

“Sometimes I’m thinking about Heavyweight. That can be a goal,” Nemkov said. “It’s also interesting and it’s also because the weight cut is not so easy time after time, year after year, so the biggest goal for me, maybe it’s the title at Heavyweight.”