Sources: Nemkov-Johnson among Bellator semis


One of the biggest events in recent Bellator history is coming to the desert.

The Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix semifinals will take place on the same card Oct. 16 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, sources told ESPN on Saturday.

The event will be headlined by the semifinal bout between Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and multiple-time former UFC light heavyweight title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. In the co-main event, Ryan Bader, the current Bellator heavyweight champion and former Bellator light heavyweight champ, takes on fellow former UFC contender Corey Anderson in the other semifinal.

ESPN has three of the four semifinal competitors ranked in its top 10 in the world at 205 pounds: Nemkov (6), Anderson (8) and Bader (9).

The winners of those two bouts will meet at a later date to determine the grand prix winner, the Bellator light heavyweight champion and the winner of the tournament’s $1 million prize.

Johnson (23-6) is one of the most feared knockout punchers in the history of MMA. The Florida resident debuted in Bellator with a second-round knockout of Jose Augusto in May, his first bout in nearly four years. That was in the grand prix quarterfinals. Johnson, 37, announced a return from retirement with Bellator last year. He has lost to only one man since 2012: former UFC double champion Daniel Cormier. Both of those bouts were UFC light heavyweight title fights.

Nemkov (14-2) stopped Bader via second-round TKO last August to become Bellator light heavyweight champion. The Russia native defended the title successfully in April, a unanimous decision win over Phil Davis in the grand prix quarterfinals. Nemkov, 29, has won eight straight. He is a protégé of legendary MMA heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.

Anderson (15-5) is 2-0 since moving over to Bellator last year. The Illinois native finished Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov via third-round TKO in the grand prix quarterfinals in April. Anderson, 31, has won six of his last seven with the only loss during that time coming against Jan Blachowicz, the current UFC light heavyweight champion.

Bader (28-6, 1 NC) rebounded from his title loss to Nemkov by beating former UFC champion Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision in the grand prix quarterfinals in April. The Arizona resident has just one loss in his last 10 fights. Bader, 38, is still the Bellator heavyweight champion after winning a tournament in that weight class in January 2019, stopping Emelianenko in the final.

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