Despite having title, Vadim Nemkov keeping ‘hungry fighter’ mindset for Bellator grand prix

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Nolan King
·3 min read
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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Vadim Nemkov enters Bellator 257 the champion, but with the hunger of a contender.

In the third of four Bellator light heavyweight grand prix quarterfinal matchups, Nemkov (12-2 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) faces Phil Davis (22-5 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) in a rematch of their November 2018 fight. Not only is Friday’s headliner a tournament fight, but it’s also Nemkov’s first title defense, too.

“It’s no pressure on me at all,” Nemkov told MMA Junkie on Wednesday. “I know that I’m the champion. I know it, but I enter this tournament like a fighter, a hungry fighter. I know that I’m champion, but there isn’t pressure on me. Not any milligram.”

Nemkov won the promotion’s 205-pound title at Bellator 244 in August, when he finished longtime champion Ryan Bader with strikes in Round 2. The finish was Nemkov’s fourth in five Bellator fights and won him the first major promotional title of his career.

“I’m very proud that I’m on this level that Bellator made posters of me and my picture is on the arena, on the cage,” Nemkov said. “I enjoy it. I’m happy. I’m really happy that Bellator trusts me, this moment that I’m on the posters. I’m working really hard with my team to give them the same, to show them that they’re also really happy to be in Bellator.”

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In his own estimation, Nemkov, 28, has changed a lot since the first time he fought Davis. That night he won a split decision but did so without the mature mentality he now has. Familiar with what Davis brings to the cage, Nemkov alluded to an even better outing the second time around.

“First of all, for me, I think I’ve grown up mentally,” Nemkov said. “I’m not worried anymore like I was worried when I was younger, when I didn’t have as much experience. I know this guy. I already had a fight with him, so I know his moves. He’s not a surprise for me anymore. I’m on the top of Bellator and I’m in the top light heavyweights in the world, so it’s given me more confidence.”

Vadim won’t be the only Nemkov competing on Friday’s card. His older brother, Viktor, will make his promotional debut on the undercard against Karl Albrektsson. The Russian champion hopes the Nemkov name brings two wins back to the homeland.

“I want all the best for my brother,” Nemkov said. “We are professionals. Of course, I’m going to worry about it. I’m going to watch his fight, but I know this is a professional sport. Anything can happen, but I wish for both of us to bring to Russia victories. Two ‘W’s.”

Bellator 257 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card airs on Showtime after prelims on MMA Junkie.