Russia’s ‘Last Emperor’ targeting US rival for final fight
Fedor Emelianenko, often regarded as the finest heavyweight fighter in the history of mixed martial arts, is set to call time on his career – but not before he attempts to exact a measure of revenge from the last man to have defeated him inside the cage.
Former PRIDE standout Emelianenko, 46, has lost just six times in a career spanning 47 fights across 22 years, but perhaps none of those defeats stung quite as much as the TKO loss he suffered to American fighter Ryan Bader just 35 seconds into their Bellator heavyweight title fight in January 2019.
It was the first time in Emelianenko's legendary career in which he came up short in world a title fight – but, according to Bellator chief Scott Coker, the scene is set for Fedor to challenge for a title belt one final time before he hangs up his gloves.
At least, that is, if the man known as the ‘Last Emperor’ gets his wish.
“He wants to fight Ryan Bader. That’s what it comes down to,” Coker told the media following last weekend's Bellator 286 event in Long Beach, California.
“He wants a revenge fight, and he wants to have the title shot. So, we haven’t really gotten too much into that, but that’s what his requests have been in the last three or four texts that I received, so let’s see how that goes.”
Emelianenko has been exclusively tied to Bellator for the past five years and has posted a 4–2 record with the fight promotion during that time.
He appeared to have rolled back the clock somewhat in his past two performances, scoring first-round knockouts of fellow legend Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and American slugger Timothy Johnson is his two most recent outings.
And while Coker has stated that he hopes to pull out all the stops to mark the final career fight of one of the sport's most beloved figures, he says that the military situation in Ukraine ruled out what was his initial plan: an MMA event situated in the heart of Moscow's Red Square.
“We were talking about this earlier, and we had a fight set in July of this year in Red Square to have Fedor fight in his final fight,” Coker said.
“You talk about the greatest fighter of all time, the greatest heavyweight of all time, and when we planned this event that was supposed to be the event where he retires, he finally comes home, because Fedor went all over the world and conquered everybody.
“Comes home, has a grand parade, lots of pageantry, lots of just great production, great show, and he retires in front of his hometown. But obviously with the invasion of Ukraine, that didn’t work out. So, that fight went out, and we’re still debating when we’re going to fight him, but he wants to fight right away.”