Russia’s ‘Last Emperor’ granted blockbuster retirement fight
In what is expected to be the final fight of his glittering career, Russia’s Fedor Emelianenko will meet Ryan Bader in a heavyweight title fight rematch at Bellator 290 in California in February.
The bout was confirmed by the promotion on Friday, and will air on US network CBS. Emelianenko, 46, had stated his desire to meet Bader again after suffering a first-round defeat to the American in their title contest at Bellator 214 at the start of 2019.
Since then, ‘The Last Emperor’ has recorded successive first-round stoppage wins with the promotion, the most recent of which was a knockout of Tim Johnson in Moscow in October of last year.
Bellator boss Scott Coker had been plotting a potential Moscow sendoff for Emelianenko – widely considered among the greatest heavyweights of all time, if not the greatest – but those plans were sunk by the conflict in Ukraine.
Instead, the Russian icon will face Bader at the Kia Forum in Inglewood – the venue of their first meeting.
Emelianenko was in Chicago on Friday as teammate and protégé Vadim Nemkov defended his Bellator light heavyweight title, and spoke on the sidelines about the showdown with Bader.
“First of all, I wanted a title fight, it just so happens that it’s a rematch with Ryan Bader,” said Emelianenko, via translation.
“It didn’t go my way last time, I’m going to prepare and hope it’s going to go my way this time.”
When asked if it would definitely be his last fight, Emelianenko replied: “Yes, it will be. It will be the end of my career.”
Emelianenko’s glittering career has seen him crowned a champion in the now-defunct Japan-based promotion PRIDE, among numerous other achievements.
His record reads a staggering 40 wins from 47 matches, with six losses and one no-contest. Emelianenko is 4-2 since joining Bellator in 2017.
Ex-UFC fighter Bader, 39, is a former two-weight Bellator champion, having previously held the light heavyweight title.
The Nevada-born fighter defended his heavyweight crown twice in 2022, last defeating Cheick Congo via unanimous decision at Bellator 280 in May.
Bader has 30 wins, seven losses and one no-contest in his 38-fight career.