Jaideep Singh was going to be Fedor Emelianenko's opponent on New Year's Eve. And then he wasn't. But really, it seems like Singh was the plan all along.
Rizin Fighting Federation made it official Thursday night, naming Singh as Emelianenko's opponent in a press conference in Japan. The two will meet in the main event of the two-day megacard Dec. 31 at Saitama Super Arena. The event marks former PRIDE boss Nobuyuki Sakakibara's return to MMA. It will air in the United States on Spike TV.
MMA Fighting's Ariel Helwani reported in October that Singh would be Emelianenko's foe, just hours before Sakakibara was supposed to announce it at a press conference. An announcement was never made in October and Rizin waited until now -- less than two weeks from the event -- to make it official.
Later in October, Helwani reported that Singh's chances of fighting Emelianenko had dropped considerably after the matchup was panned by media and fans. Singh was booked to fight for the DEEP megaton title on just three days notice against Carlos Toyota back in October with the hopes of making him look stronger to setup the Emelianenko fight. But Rizin execs were concerned that Singh's performance did not blow them away and that he appeared out of shape.
Singh, 28, is only 2-0 in MMA, though the Indian-Japanese fighter has a long background in kickboxing, where he sports a 40-10 record. Singh was the 2009 K-1 World Grand Prix Seoul champion.
Emelianenko (34-4, 1 NC) is one of the best fighters to ever compete in MMA. "The Last Emperor" went 10 years without a loss from 2000 to 2010. The Russian fighter has not competed since 2012 and lost three straight before departing Strikeforce in 2011. Emelianenko, 39, said he would return over the summer and his affiliation with Rizin was announced at Bellator MMA: Dynamite 1 in September.