Corey Anderson Was Told He Had Won Bellator Fight for $1M Before No-Contest Ruling

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 18, 2022

Vadim Nemkov, left, and Corey Anderson react after a light heavyweight World Grand Prix Final match at the Bellator 277 mixed martial arts event in San Jose, Calif., Friday, April 15, 2022. The bout was ruled a no contest. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

Corey Anderson was about five seconds away from being $1 million richer. 

The MMA fighter thought he had defeated Vadim Nemkov and won both the light heavyweight title and Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix, which came with a $1 million prize, after referee Frank Trigg stopped the fight at 4:55 in the third round. 

He told ESPN's Marc Raimondi that multiple people inside the cage told him he'd won the fight. 

But instead of going to the cards, it was ruled a no-contest because of an illegal bumping of heads that left Nemkov with a nasty cut on his left eyebrow. Had it gone into the fourth round, the stoppage could have then gone to a technical decision. 

"I jump on the cage, I get excited," Anderson said. "My mom is crying. My family in the crowd is jumping up and down. All of a sudden, I jump down from the cage and you see the [$1 million] check walking down the stairs. All of a sudden, the ref comes back and tells me there's [five] seconds left and you have to go all the way to the end of the third round to be declared the winner."

Anderson said he was the one who told Trigg of the clashing of the heads that caused the cut, which came while he was in the top position and went to hit Nemkov with an elbow while Nemkov took his legs out simultaneously. The ref initially ruled that the cut came from a legal blow.

"I know [Trigg] would have kept it going," Anderson said. "But the sportsman in me was like, 'Let him know that wasn't from me—I didn't hit him, I accidentally headbutted him.' ... That was just me being a good person."

Anderson will still have the opportunity to win the $1 million prize he thought he already earned, with the grand prix championship and prize money still up for grabs in a rematch. Anderson told Raimondi that he's been informed the rematch would happen once Nemkov's eyebrow heals, and that his opponent didn't suffer a broken orbital bone. 

The hope to stage the rematch before the end of the summer. And Anderson is trying to keep the feeling he had when he thought he was the champion fresh in his mind. 

"The motivation is like that's what it should have been," he said. "I need that. I've already seen it, I've already tasted it, I've already felt it. I had that excitement from being the champ. Now, I have to really feel it. I know how it feels to believe you're the champ. Now, I have to go out there and actually be the champ. I need that feeling."

For the time being, however, Nemkov remains the light heavyweight champion and is ESPN's No. 6-ranked fighter in the division. Anderson (16-5 with the one no-contest) comes in at No. 3 behind UFC champion Glover Teixeira and the UFC's Jan Blachowicz. 

Anderson, who fought in the UFC from 2014-20, beat Teixeira in 2018 but lost to Blachowicz two years ago in his final UFC bout.