CAPE TOWN – While Bellator’s top-five pound-for-pound men’s fighter, Ryan Bader (all time record, 28-6, 1 NC) continues to chase glory in the promotion’s light heavyweight Grand Prix, America’s Timothy Johnson (15-6) and Ukraine’s Valentin Moldavsky (10-1) will battle it out for the Big Boy belt at Bellator 261 on Friday night.
In one of the organisation’s Grand Prix initiatives, Bellator heavyweight champion Bader will try to reclaim the light heavyweight belt and return to double-champ status after he lost to Vadim Nemkov in the 205-pound (92 kilograms) division in August last year.
This has since provided an opportunity for number one ranked Johnson and number three ranked Moldavsky to stake a claim for the interim Heavyweight strap.
Former UFC fighter Johnson is coming off a 3-fight win streak with his latest feat ending in a split decision win over second-ranked Bellator heavyweight, France’s Cheick Kongo (30-11-1 and 1 NC) in Paris last year.
Valentin - who now also calls Russia home - has amassed an impressive 5-fight win streak since signing for Bellator. His last defeat came at the hands of Amir Aliakbari at the Rizin World Grand Prix 2016 Final five years ago.
Both fighters are fired up for this clash which will eventually see the winner take on Bader as soon as he becomes available.
“I’m counting this as a title, I’ll let everyone else put an interim in front of it,” says Johnson.
“Moldavsky is a championship level fighter and so am I, so in my eyes this fight is to become the best heavyweight in the division,” added the 191cm tall athlete who fights out of Fargo, North Dakota in the United States.
“It was easy to focus on his game plan because it is the exact same thing I do. We both are strong wrestlers and have heavy ground and pound. I guess we are going to have to see who does it better on Friday (today),” says Johnson.
With both athletes enjoying a strong grappling game, the significantly shorter Moldavsky (185cm) is confident he has the upper hand.
“Yes, there are some similarities between me and Tim,”says Moldavsky.
“My style is a little different, though, I like to take people down and finish them there. Now that this is a title fight, I understand that there is more on the line, but this is just another fight for me. I plan to do what I always do and that is fight my fight and come out with a victory,” says Moldavsky who trains with one of the world’s greatest mixed martial artists, Fedor Emelianenko at Fedor Team.
Bellator 261 takes place today (Friday) at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The main card airs on Showtime and the prelims will stream live at 5:30 p.m. ET (23:30 SAST) on the BELLATOR MMA YouTube channel, SHOWTIME Sports YouTube channel and Pluto TV.
Interim Heavyweight World Title Main Event: #1-Timothy Johnson (15-6) vs. #3-Valentin Moldavsky (10-1)
Flyweight Co-Main Event: #2-Liz Carmouche (15-7) vs. #3-Kana Watanabe (10-0-1)
Featherweight Bout: #6-Daniel Weichel (40-12) vs. Keoni Diggs (9-0)
Lightweight Bout: #4-Myles Jury (19-5) vs. #6-Sidney Outlaw (15-4)
Light Heavyweight Bout: Christian Edwards (4-0) vs. Simon Biyong (7-1)
Lightweight Bout: Soren Bak (14-1) vs. Bobby Lee (12-5)
Lightweight Bout: Isaiah Hokit (Pro Debut) vs. Corey Samuels (2-2)
Bantamweight Bout: Jaylon Bates (2-0) vs. Cody Matthews (1-1)
Middleweight Bout: Taylor Johnson (6-2) vs. Lance Wright (5-1)
Featherweight Bout: John Macapa (23-5-2) vs. John de Jesus (13-9)