Former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov hasn't fought for the promotion since a successful title defense in April 2014 over Cheick Kongo. A couple contract disputes plagued Minokov and caused the promotion to strip him of the belt earlier this year. But now with new management on both sides, the Russian is leaving the option open to returning to the promotion.
“Listen, in the past, I didn’t have the best relationship with (former Bellator president) Bjorn Rebney, and I was with different management,” Minakov told MMAJunkie through an interpreter. “Now I have a new management team that represents a lot of famous fighters like Fabricio Werdum, Frankie Edgar, Khabib Nurmagomedov and now Bellator has a new man in charge with Scott Coker.
“Scott, I believe, is one of the best people in MMA. I was a very big Strikeforce fan and think it was the best show on the planet when he was running it. Scott Coker is a big legend. You can’t compare him with Bjorn Rebney.”
In a recent interview with Russian outlet, investia, Minakov thinks his contract runs out with the Viacom promotion in a few months. Bloody Elbow went on to report he likely would then go on to the UFC. The 31-year-old believes his words were taken out of context and no discussions with the UFC have taken place since he is still under a Bellator contract.
“First of all, some of the things I said in the interview got taken out of content and people twisted my words,” Minakov said. “I’ve had no discussion with the UFC. I have a contract with Bellator, but how can they block me from going to the UFC when I’ve never even talked to the UFC? This is 100 percent incorrect.
“To be honest with you, how can anyone say I’m going to move to the UFC when I’m under contract with Bellator? Like I said, whatever decision my manager and Bellator is going to come up with, we will know what’s going to happen. But for now, I am a Bellator fighter. Bellator has guys like Scott Coker, Mike Kogan, Rich Chou and Spike President Kevin Kay, and whatever decision is made, we will make together, and everyone will know what were going to do. But right now, UFC is not even on my mind to be honest with you. If I retire and never fight in the UFC, I don’t really care, as long as I can fight good competition.”
Since he hasn't been fighting in Bellator, Minakov's been competing on the regional stage in Russia, winning all four of his fights.