UFC President Dana White scoffed at a statement from Bellator President Scott Coker that the ViacomCBS-owned promotion will promote the sport’s best light heavyweight after champ Jon Jones moves up in weight.
“Isn’t he cute?” White said in response to Bellator’s characterization of Friday’s light heavyweight title fight between now-former two-division champ Ryan Bader and Vadim Nemkov, who dominated the UFC vet to capture his first major title at 205 pounds.
Asked later about the possibility of co-promotion, something the UFC has done only once in its history for a boxing one-off with “The Money Fight,” White doubled down and took another shot at Bellator.
“Everybody they have in their light heavyweight division, we let go of,” he said. “He’s got the best light heavyweight division? We let those guys all go. It’s like the f*cking dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.
“But I get it. He’s gotta try to fcking do his thing. I’m not shtting on him. He’s gotta try to do his thing. He’s got to try and sell fights. The way you don’t sell fights is, ‘Oh, I’ve got the best light heavyweight division in the world.’ Everybody that was there was let go from here. That’s a pretty silly statement.”
Several top Bellator fighters in the light heavyweight division are UFC veterans, including Bader, Phil Davis, Lyoto Machida (who also competes at middleweight), and, most recently, Corey Anderson. All of them elected to sign with the ViacomCBS promotion after receiving more lucrative offers, not getting a matching offer from the UFC, or requesting their release from the UFC.
One notable exception is Nemkov, who initially won notice in RIZIN before moving to Bellator. The 28-year-old Russian has won five straight bouts with his current promoter, but he’s overall faced a lower caliber of opposition when compared to Jones, who’s dominated a who’s who of top light heavyweights over the past decade.
Bader cast Friday’s fight as a contest for the No. 1 spot in the world with Jones possibly moving up to heavyweight. After his upset win, Nemkov paid his respects to his UFC counterpart, but indicated he agreed with Bader’s statement.
“I feel like I’m No. 1 right now,” Nemkov said at the post-fight presser. “To back up why I’m saying this, I didn’t just go through five rounds of a fight. I finished a top contender in a decisive manner in two rounds.”
Nemkov likely will never get to test out that statement, because White sees no reason to match his fighters against a competing interest. The last time he imported talent groomed by Coker, it was after UFC parent Zuffa purchased Strikeforce, Coker’s previous MMA promotion. Several Strikeforce champions went on to capture UFC gold or become huge stars, including Daniel Cormier, Luke Rockhold and Nick Diaz.