Late last year, Bellator MMA President Scott Coker sounded like he was just about done with reigning heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov.
At promotion’s most recent tent-pole event this past November in St. Louis, Coker alluded to a meeting with members of Minakov’s management in hopes of getting the fighter back in the Bellator cage.
“If we don’t have an answer in the next month or two, we’ll probably just move on from there,” Coker told Sherdog.com in a video interview.
Fast forward to the present day, and Coker still does not have a concrete answer as to when the champion will next defend his belt in Bellator. However, both sides have been making progress in negotiations, which is likely why Minakov has not been forced to vacate his title despite not fighting for the promotion since April 2014.
“If we can get him back and ready to defend his title in the next six months, I think that would be fine,” Coker recently told Sherdog.com. “Basically it’s a contract issue. We’re trying to work through it. It’s just something that ‘s part of this business. All sports, whether you’re a football player, basketball player or MMA fighter, it’s something we have to deal with from time to time.”
Minakov has not been completely dormant since defending the heavyweight strap with a five-round unanimous decision over Cheick Kongo at Bellator 115. In the interim, the 30-year-old Russian went 3-0 in 2015, with all his triumphs coming in Russia under the Eurasia Fight Nights banner.
“My stance is still the same, but I do feel that with his progress we’ll be able to have him back sooner than later,” Coker said. “I think that we’ll be OK.”
While Coker hopes to have Minakov competing within six months, the goal is to resolve the contractual issues “in the next 40 to 60 days.” Once everything is agreeable on that front, then the promotion can take steps to determine the division’s next No. 1 contender.
“We have Bobby Lashley and Cheick Kongo and maybe [the Tony Johnson/Raphael Butler winner] fights one of those two.....and maybe they can fight Minakov sometime before the end of the year,” Coker said.