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Bellator chief Scott Coker: Ryan Bader's next defense not decided; Minakov-Kongo winner an option

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NEW YORK – Bellator President Scott Coker has confirmed Saturday’s rematch between Vitaly Minakov and Cheick Kongo will determine the No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division. However, that doesn’t mean they will be next to fight champ Ryan Bader.

Bader (27-5 MMA, 5-0 UFC) became Bellator’s first simultaneous two-division titleholder when he knocked out Fedor Emelianenko to win the heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 214 in January. Coker said he will allow Bader leniency to defend both belts; it’s just a matter of determining which will come first.

Coker doesn’t have an obvious preference but intends on meeting with Bader soon so they can collaborate on the best course of action.

“To me, it’s really whatever the fighter wants to do,” Coker told reporters, including MMAjunkie, at today’s Bellator media day. “I think that we should sit down and talk to Ryan, which we haven’t done yet. We want to just let him enjoy his moment in the sun. … We’ll get back with him and his management probably sometime in the next two weeks and figure out what he wants to do. Then we’ll go make it happen.”


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For Coker, there’s really no wrong option. He believes there are many compelling matchups available for Bader across both heavyweight and light heavyweight.

“There’s good fights for him in the heavyweight division; there’s good fights for him at the 205-pound weight class,” Coker said. “When I think of 205 and Ryan Bader, I think of Gegard (Mousasi) moving up to fight him at 205. I think of Lyoto Machida fighting at 205. Both of those guys have said they will move up to 205 to fight the big fights. At heavyweight, I think of Kongo, I think of Roy Nelson, I think of a Matt Mitrione rematch and (Mirko) Cro Cop. There’s a lot of big fights for him outside of Cheick Kongo and his opponent this weekend.”

Time will tell Bader’s next move, but Coker said if it comes at heavyweight, the fight between Minakov (21-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) and Kongo (29-10-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) will decide who is next. Minakov used to hold the heavyweight belt that Bader now owns, but a contract dispute causes him to be stripped and fight outside Bellator for four years.

Now Minakov comes back to rematch the streaking Kongo, who he beat at Bellator 115 in April 2014, in the Bellator 216 co-headliner at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The bout streams on DAZN following prelims on MMAjunkie.

“That is a title elimination fight,” Coker said. “The winner will get a shot at Bader.”

For more on Bellator 216, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.


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