A last-minute shake-up changed tonight’s Bellator 225 lineup.
Heavyweights Vitaly Minakov and Javy Ayala posed for photos following the official weigh-ins in Bridgeport on Friday, but won’t be fighting each other tonight. The promotion announced on Saturday that Tim Johnson has stepped in to fight Minakov in tonight’s co-main event.
Johnson was originally scheduled to face short-notice replacement Azunna Anyanwu in the preliminary portion of the card. It’s still unclear why Ayala was pulled from the co-main event bout and whether Anyanwu will be compensated by the promotion.
A Bellator official told MMA Fighting that Ayala was removed from the card “on the advice of the Connecticut Boxing Commission.” As for Anyanwu, “he will be booked in the future and was compensated for this event.”
Anyanwu reacted to the news on his social media.
Crazy chains of events. I won’t be Competing tonight. My opponent was moved to the Co-main event. I’ll be fighting soon for @BellatorMMA this fall.... We already got a Jump start. ... Thanks to @BellatorMMA for the opportunity. Thanks to my Coaches,Sponsors & Supporters.— Zu (@ZuluNation215) August 24, 2019
Minakov (21-1), a former Bellator heavyweight champion, is looking to rebound from the first loss of his professional career, dropping a decision to Cheick Kongo in February. It was his first bout under the company’s banner after a five-year run in Russia.
Johnson (12-5) is also coming off a defeat to Kongo, losing his Bellator debut. Johnson parted ways with the UFC following a decision win over Marcelo Golm in Feb. 2018. The 34-year-old heavyweight won four of seven fights in the Octagon between 2015 and 2018.
Bellator 225 takes place at the Webster Bank Arena and is headlined by a rematch between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov. Their first encounter earlier this year ended in a no-contest after an accidental groin strike 15 seconds into the bout.
UPDATE: Ayala was removed from the card after failing his pre-fight physical, a Bellator official told MMA Fighting on Saturday night. The exact reason could not be divulged due to patient confidentiality.