Linton Vassell thinks his promoter may need to get into the interim title business sooner rather than later.
The former Bellator light heavyweight title champion questions whether current titleholder Ryan Bader (25-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) will be ready and willing to defend his belt, given his current conquest in the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.
“It’s going to be a shame if he holds the division up,” Vassell (18-6 MMA, 7-3 BMMA) told MMAjunkie in advance of his Paramount-televised bout with Phil Davis (18-4-1 MMA, 5-1 BMMA) at Bellator 200, which takes place at The SSE Arena in London. “I think if that happens, then they need to do an interim title, or strip him, especially if he wins that title.
“I don’t want to be waiting months and months on end before I get a title fight. Either one of those two needs to happen.”
Bader recently punched a ticket to the semifinals of the eight-man heavyweight tournament, knocking out Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (21-7 MMA, 10-6 BMMA) in short order to line up a bout against Matt Mitrione (13-5 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) later this year. The winner of the tournament will be crowned Bellator’s new heavyweight champ.
Bader has said he’ll defend both titles if he’s able to win the tournament, but Vassell is skeptical. He sees a fight with Davis as a title eliminator, and he wants a rematch with Bader after a knockout loss this past November. The problem is, he doesn’t see Bader’s schedule getting any less busy.
Unlike the UFC, Bellator has put up only one interim title in its history, and has only stripped one champion – heavyweight Vitaly Minakov – during president Scott Coker’s tenure. The likelihood of taking Bader’s gold seems slim, but Vassell is adamant he should only wait so long.
“If he does hold the division up, I’m more than welcome to do a light heavyweight fight again,” Vassell told MMAjunkie.
The first order of business for Vassell, however, is beating the opponent in front of him. If he doesn’t get past Davis, his concerns won’t make much difference.