‘This’ll be the retirement fight’: Bellator president Scott Coker reveals plan to have Fedor Emelianenko’s final fight in Russia
Under Coker’s stewardship, Bellator is a promotion on the rise, and with the organization expanding across Europe with as many as 10 fights planned for 2020, the Bellator chief said he would love to stage “The Last Emperor’s” last fight on his home soil.
“Fighting in Russia is definitely something we’d like to have happen,” he told RT Sport during Bellator 228 fight week in Los Angeles.
“We think Fedor will be a great fighter, obviously because of his history, to launch us in the territory. But I think Fedor will fight a couple of times before we go to Russia. We’re working on a fight hopefully to have him fighting in Japan before the end of the year and that’s what we’re working on. It’s not signed yet, by any means, it’s not done yet. I’ll see Fedor in Milan in two weeks and we’ll have a discussion, but we’re getting close.”
And with Fedor very much in the twilight of his stellar mixed martial arts career, Coker said the ideal scenario would be to coincide Bellator’s first show in Russia with the occasion of Fedor’s retirement fight.
“I think the plan was to have Fedor fight two times, and then go to Russia,” he confirmed.
“And I think this will probably be his final match. This’ll be the retirement fight.
“So, if people want to see Fedor, the greatest fighter in the history of MMA, especially the greatest heavyweight of all time, they’ve got to come to the fight and see him live. But we’re talking years away, probably. Or a year away, or two years away, who knows? But we’re definitely working on his first fight, which will be done here soon.”
It is expected that Emelianenko, who achieved cult-like status in Japan as the heavyweight champion of the now-defunct PRIDE Fighting Championships organization, could make his next appearance back in Asia at the expected co-promoted New Year’s Eve event between Bellator and Japanese promotion Rizin, headed up by former PRIDE chief Noboyuki Sakakibara.
But that would merely represent Fedor’s next fight, and Coker said he believes a card in Russia featuring Emelianenko, plus fellow Russian heavyweights Sergei Kharitonov, ex-Bellator champ Vitaly Minakov, and former welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov, could fare well.
“You know who’s really surprised me, in a good way, and he’s kinda like the old guard, is Kharitonov,” he explained.
“What a run he’s on. Here’s a guy that, on any given day, can beat anybody. He’s just been on a tear, so we’re definitely keeping our eyes on him as he continues to just smash people.Also on rt.com 'Meanest uppercut in the game': Kharitonov KO's Mitrione after mouthpiece drama at Bellator 225
“Minakov is somebody that we have high expectations for. Already been a champion, and now it’s like his comeback, because he’s had such a break and he was fighting over there, and they had a contract dispute. But it’s all worked out now, so we’ve just got to get him some more fights. We have a lot of high hopes for him.
“Those two heavyweights, and Fedor, fighting in Russia, plus Koreshkov, we’ve got some great Russian fighters and I think they would translate well in the country.”
And Coker didn’t rule out the possibility of an all-Russian heavyweight clash on Russian soil, with Emelianenko and Kharitonov facing off in a battle of two Russian heavyweight icons. Such a matchup would also give Kharitonov a chance to avenge his 2006 loss to Fedor’s brother Aleksander in PRIDE.
“I think that, if the deal was right, those guys would love to get it on!”