Corey Anderson: Vadim Nemkov moving to heavyweight because he’s ‘scared’ of trilogy fight

Corey Anderson did not see this coming.

In 2022, Anderson had a pair of significant bouts bouts with Vadim Nemkov for the Bellator light heavyweight title. In the first, he dominated the bout before an inadvertent head butt stopped the bout and led to a no-contest. In a rematch seven months later, Nemkov out-pointed Anderson to retain the title.

But when Anderson took a split decision win over Phil Davis last June, “Overtime” thought he’d punched his ticket to a trilogy bout. Instead, Nemkov officially vacated the Bellator light heavyweight title to move up to heavyweight, and Anderson was completely caught off guard.

“Yes, 100 percent,” Anderson told The MMA Hour when asked if he was surprised by Nemkov’s decision. “Especially with the way the first fight ended. He beat me the second time, but if anybody can be honest with yourself, you saw that first fight. It was a slippery slope. If I didn’t finish you before I told the ref I head-butted you – I was probably going to take you down and finish you in the next round. He was pretty much a fish out of water on the ground at that point.

“So I thought for sure a third fight, and why wouldn’t you? You make championship money, and now you’ve got to go back and just be a contender. I know how the contracts work, and I’m sure his works the same: if you don’t have a title, you don’t make nearly as much. So I keep telling people, why is he avoiding the fight? Scared money don’t make money. He doesn’t want to take the opportunity to risk getting beat the third time, so he just gave up his belt and [went] to fight somebody else.”

Nemkov will now fight former PFL heavyweight champion Bruno Cappelozza in a non-title main card bout at the PFL vs. Bellator: CHAMPS card, which takes place on Feb. 24 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

To Anderson, that choice just proves Nemkov is scared to run it back.

“I think so. I think so,” Anderson said when asked if he really thinks Nemkov is scared. “He did an interview after the fight, and when they asked him, ‘What did you think about the fight between Corey and Phil [Davis]?’ His translator said he was hoping Phil won, or something like that, so he could fight Phil a third time. But then when he did an interview, he said he didn’t want to fight at 205 anymore. ‘Well, I feel it’s time for me to go to another weight because I’ve already beaten these guys. I don’t want to fight the same guys anymore. There’s nothing left I can prove at 205.’

“Well, when I beat Phil, you said you wished Phil won so you could fight him a third time. But now, a couple months later — at the time, Bellator had already talked to both of us and said we were fighting Nov. 18 in Chicago. They were about to announce it.

“They told us they were going to announce it on Thursday — this was Monday — [and] Tuesday night he did an interview saying he was no longer fighting at 205 and going to heavyweight. Come on, bro! We’ve been discussing this. They’ve been talking about the date and where to go for how long now? Now, all of a sudden, the week they were going to announce it, you decide you’re not going to fight anymore? They didn’t even know. I talked to everybody, and they had no clue.”

Fortunately for Anderson, he still gets a shot at the light heavyweight title, facing Karl Moore for the vacant belt at the first Bellator show under the PFL umbrella. When he beats Moore to finally capture that elusive title, the fact that it won’t come against Nemkov won’t make it any less sweet.

“I already believe I’m the best light heavyweight in the world,” Anderson said. “People are going to say what they’re going to say. I believe it every day, that’s the only way I can get up and keep doing this thing. I believe so hard that I’m the best. I lost my opportunity to prove it against Nemkov, but it is what it is.”

Bellator’s return takes place on March 22 in Belfast, Ireland.

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