Coker: Ryan Bader vs. Linton Vassell title fight is two men better at heavyweight
SAN JOSE, Calif. – It’s fair to say Scott Coker is reasonably excited about the next heavyweight title fight he’s likely to promote.
Linton Vassell (24-8 MMA, 12-5 BMMA) had some early issues in his rematch with Valentin Moldavsky (11-3 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) at Bellator 292 this past Friday in San Jose, Calif. But he worked his way out of trouble and rallied for a big knockout win to avenge a past loss.
The fight was a No. 1 contender fight for a title shot against champion Ryan Bader, which will be another rematch for Vassell. He lost a light heavyweight title shot to Bader in November 2017.
Bader has since lost the 205-pound title, but has looked nearly untouchable at heavyweight. And so, too, has Vassell – with five straight wins and five finishes since he entered the division with his loss to Moldavsky. Coker thinks both of them are where they should be now.
“I think both these guys are better at heavyweight than they are at light heavyweight, and for whatever reason, they perform at a higher level when they’re in the heavyweight division,” Coker told MMA Junkie at the post-fight news conference. “I’m looking forward to it because the Linton I saw (Friday) is not the Linton I’ve ever seen before. Moldavsky is no joke. He is a real solid heavyweight, has great skills all the way around, has had a great training camp, obviously trains with Fedor (Emelianenko) and that whole team, and it seemed like (Vassell) just dominated him and took it to him.”
Coker said the plan is for Vassell to challenge Bader for the heavyweight title. But like everything in MMA, nothing is set in stone. Still, he expects the matchup to happen, and maybe not too far in the future, either.
Bader is coming off a quick finish of Emelianenko to defend the heavyweight belt. Vassell’s time preference is late fall, but he’d no doubt answer the call for a title shot no matter when it is.
“We look forward to promoting that fight,” Coker said. “I think Bader should be the next opponent (for Vassell). We haven’t talked to Ryan yet, so there’s still some things to be discussed. But that’s my goal is to put that fight together as soon as possible.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for Bellator 292.
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