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Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov is set to make his first title defense against former light heavyweight champion Phil Davis in the quarterfinals of the promotion’s light heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 257.
Nemkov’s last victory was a masterclass performance, where he finished the former champion, current no. 1 contender, and another competitor in the light heavyweight grand prix Ryan Bader to win the belt at Bellator 244 in August.
Speaking at virtual media day for Bellator 257, Nemkov discussed what it has been like to be a “front man” of sorts for the promotion as a champion in what is perhaps Bellator’s most stacked division.
“I’m very proud that I’m on this level,” Nemkov said. “Bellator made posters of me and my picture is on the arena, on the cage.”
Despite already reaching one of the highest achievements in the sport, the 28-year old Nemkov is more focused on paying it forward. But of course, Nemkov is enjoying the fruits of his labor as well.
“I enjoy it. I’m happy. I’m really happy that Bellator trusts me, this moment that I’m on the posters,” Nemkov said. “I’m working really hard with my team to give [Bellator] the same, to show them that they’re also really happy to be in Bellator.”
As far as his approach to the grand prix however, Nemkov is trying his best to maintain the perception of a fighter who has yet to achieve the championship that the Russian prodigy possesses in the light heavyweight title.
“Yes, I’m in the grand prix as a champion. But I try to move these things out of my head, so I enter this tournament like a regular fighter and I just want to win,” Nemkov said. “For me it’s [very] important to win this tournament. Not the belt."
Nemkov’s opponent in the quarterfinals of the light heavyweight grand prix is a familiar foe in Phil Davis. The two fought in 2018, where Nemkov squeaked out a split decision win in 2018.
As a result of Nemkov’s familiarity with “Mr. Wonderful”, Nemkov feels more prepared and more evolved as a fighter since their last outing.
Nemkov is also keen on finishing Davis, something that has never been done in Davis’ professional career.
“I’m ready to fight with Phil Davis for five rounds. I’ve prepared for it, but I want to finish it,” Nemkov said. “I don’t want to spend five rounds with Phil Davis.”