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Tim Johnson vs. Valentin Moldavsky set for promotion’s first interim heavyweight title fight at Bellator 261

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Bellator’s first interim heavyweight title fight is set for next month.

With current heavyweight champion Ryan Bader moving on in the light heavyweight grand prix, promotional officials confirmed to MMA Fighting that Tim Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky will compete for an interim title at Bellator 261. The event takes place June 25 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and the main card will air on Showtime.

Bellator president Scott Coker revealed plans to create the promotion’s inaugural interim heavyweight title following Bader’s opening round win over Lyoto Machida at Bellator 256. Coker confirmed to MMA Fighting on Thursday that Johnson would be one of the participants in the matchup and now he’s set to face Moldavsky, a protege of Fedor Emelianenko.

A Bellator press release and an earlier version of this story initially stated that this was the first interim title fight in the promotion’s history, but there have previously been interim champions at light heavyweight (Emanuel Newton), lightweight (Will Brooks), and bantamweight (Joe Warren). However, this is the first interim title fight in the Coker era, which began in June 2014.

Johnson, currently the No. 1-ranked Bellator heavyweight, earned his shot with an impressive 3-0 run in 2020. The 36-year-old recently picked up stoppage wins over Tyrell Fortune and Matt Mitrione, along with a decision win over Cheick Kongo at October’s Bellator 248 event.

Moldavsky, ranked No. 3, has won 10 of 11 pro appearances, most of which have taken place for Bellator and RIZIN. Since making his debut in the Bellator cage, the 29-year-old has gone 5-0, including wins over Linton Vassell, Javy Ayala and Roy Nelson.

Bellator 261 will also feature a lightweight matchup between No. 5-ranked Myles Jury and No. 6-ranked Sidney Outlaw.

Here is how the Bellator 261 fight card currently looks:

Tim Johnson vs. Valentin Moldavsky — interim heavyweight title fight

Myles Jury vs. Sidney Outlaw

Lena Ovchynnikova vs. Kyra Batara

Isaiah Hokit vs. Aaron Hughes