FRESNO, Calif. -- Fedor Emelianenko is back. Sort of.
The MMA legend will be in attendance later this month to help promote Bellator 134 at Mohegan Sun in Conn., the organization announced Friday night. Emelianenko, regarded as the greatest heavyweight in the sport's history, will join fellow luminaries Tito Ortiz, Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock to sign autographs and take pictures with fans on Feb. 26 and 27.
"He's a legend of the sport," Bellator president Scott Coker said. "He should be here meeting his fans. We're excited, because it's the first time he's been in the United States for I want to say three years. It's a big deal."
Coker said Emelianenko, a Russia native, has not signed a deal like Gracie, who attends most Bellator events in a role as a brand ambassador. And he is also not returning to fight any time soon, if ever.
"I know some people will look into it more than what they should," Coker said. "We have a good relationship with Fedor. He's happy to come. How great for the fans?"
Emelianenko, 38, competed for Coker with Strikeforce from 2009 to 2011. He retired from MMA in 2012 with a 34-4 record (one no contest). Coker has said Bellator is obviously interested in signing "The Last Emperor" to compete, but the Russian has made it very clear that he's not ready to come back for the time being. Emelianenko has a role in his country's government coordinating MMA for youth.
However, just having him on site at a Bellator event promoting it is significant for the organization. Bellator 134 takes place Feb. 27 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. It is headlined by a light heavyweight title bout between champion Emanuel Newton and Liam McGeary with a loaded undercard. And now Emelianenko's presence to boot.
"For the fans for actually reach out and touch him and get his autograph, get his picture, it's a great thing," Coker said.