BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – Former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov bounced back from the first defeat of his mixed martial arts career to finish last-minute replacement Timothy Johnson in the co-main event of Bellator 225 and move himself one step closer to a shot at the gold.
Minakov (22-1 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) made light work of Johnson (12-6 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) to earn the 20th stoppage win of his career and make amends for his uncharacteristically sluggish performance in defeat to Cheick Kongo in his last outing.
And, speaking to the press after his win, Minakov said there was no reason to celebrate after picking up a valuable victory, saying: “For now, I’m not going to celebrate anything because it’s just a regular fight. It’s another step to get the title. I will celebrate when I get the title.”
Minakov explained why he was so out of sorts in the Kongo fight as he revealed he had contracted an infection in the lead-up to their matchup at Bellator 216 back in February.
“I was in hospital for one week, I lost 10 pounds in six days and in the five days before the fight before the fight I just got out from the hospital so I was in bad condition,” he explained. “So that’s why I lost that fight. This camp I did everything well, I prepared myself for two months (and) everything was great.”
The change in energy was certainly noticeable as Minakov set to work quickly against Johnson, hurting his man early on before finishing him with a pair of crushing hooks after dropping him to the floor against the cage.
Rather than be frustrated at the change in opponent, the 34-year-old said he was grateful to get a southpaw replacement after seeing his opposite number switched twice in the lead-up to the event.
“It’s the second time my opponent changed,” he explained. “Originally it was supposed to be Roy Nelson, then it was switched to Javy Ayala, and now it switched to Timothy Johnson. So when I was preparing in this camp for two months I was sparring with southpaw guys, the majority of the guys were southpaw. I was a little bit scared that I would fight with an orthodox guy. But, thank God, in the last minute I got a southpaw opponent so everything went well.”
Minakov’s win puts him right back in the mix at the top of the Bellator heavyweight division. But with fellow countryman Sergei Kharitonov scoring a huge knockout victory over Matt Mitrione in the night’s main event, he may have to wait until he gets his shot at the gold. In the meantime, however, he said he’s ready to face anyone as he looks to work his way back to Bellator’s heavyweight summit.
“It doesn’t really matter, I don’t care,” he said. “Whoever Bellator put in front of me, I will fight. But the most important thing for me is to get the title shot as soon as possible. It’s not up to me, it’s up to the Bellator organization, but I feel like a couple more fights will put me in line for a title shot.”
But before he gets a shot at the title, Minakov’s conqueror Kongo will get his chance when he faces two-division world champion Ryan Bader at Bellator 226 on Sept. 7. But if the only man to defeat Minakov hoped that the Russian star would have words of encouragement for him ahead of his world title fight, he would be sorely mistaken.
“I can say that Cheick Kongo has zero chance to win this.”
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: No celebration for Bellator 225’s focused Vitaly Minakov: 'I will celebrate when I get the title'