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Fedor Emelianenko, Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock all headed to Bellator Fan Fest

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Three of the biggest stars of the early days of mixed martial arts will be part of the promotion for Bellator's next tentpole event on Sept. 19 in San Jose.

Bellator head Scott Coker confirmed that Fedor Emelianenko, Kazushi Sakuraba and Frank Shamrock would all be coming to San Jose for a Fan Fest the week of the show.

For Sakuraba, it would be his first time affiliated with the promotion. Emelianenko has appeared at Bellator events in the past, as have other historical figures in the sport like Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock.

However, jumping to the conclusion that means that Bellator is on the trail of Emelianenko, who is training for a comeback, may be inaccurate.

"We haven't had any talks with Fedor and his people," said Coker, who promoted four fights with Emelianenko when he ran the Strikeforce promotion.

Coker gave the impression that isn't a direction he's looking at going, noting Emelianenko's price tag may not make sense for Bellator as a pure television product. He also noted Emelianenko went 1-3 in Strikeforce, and that it would be a difficult deal to put together.

For Emelianenko, coming to San Jose would be a return to the site of one of his most famous fights. On June 26, 2010, Emelianenko, generally considered at the time the greatest heavyweight MMA fighter of all-time, lost in 69 seconds to a triangle choke against current UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum. Emelianenko's only prior loss was in 2000, a stoppage due to a cut coming from an elbow that was technically illegal.

Sakuraba was the key figure in the explosion of MMA in Japan in 2000, after his win over Royce Gracie in a no time limit match in 2000 at the Tokyo Dome that went 90 minutes. Sakuraba became a national hero for beating four Gracie family members, Royce, Royler, Renzo and Ryan. He was the biggest star in Japan for the next several years, as the sport reached a peak that saw them sell out the 52,000-seat Tokyo Dome on a number of occasions.

Before the days of weight classes, Sakuraba, at probably 185 pounds, won a one-night heavyweight tournament on a UFC show in 1997, but never fought for the promotion again.

His performance on May 1, 2000, as part of an eight-man one-night no weight class tournament held at the Tokyo Dome, is something of legends. Weighing in at 174 pounds, due to wanting the most stamina for a no-time limit fight with Royce Gracie, he finally finished the match when the Gracie family threw in the towel at the 90-minute mark due to the damage Sakuraba did with low kicks.

He then fought a second time, against 225-pound heavyweight Igor Vovchanchyn. Vovchanchyn, a Russian, was at the time one of the best heavyweights in the world, sporting a 40-2 record. Sakuraba used his wrestling to dominate the first ten minutes of the fight, until, after 100 minutes of fighting, he hit the stamina wall and was beaten on for the next five minutes, before the match was finally stopped by his corner.

Sakuraba, during his heyday, mostly fought men much larger than he was. Given that he was able to easily make welterweight, and probably could have made lightweight since he wrestled at 152 pounds in college, Sakuraba fought mostly what today would be light heavyweights, 220 pounders cutting to 205. He also fought several heavyweights, including once losing to Mirko Cro Cop before 71,000 fans at the Tokyo National Stadium in 2002.

Now 46, Sakuraba came to the U.S. in November for a grappling match with Renzo Gracie on a Metamoris show, which went to a draw. He currently works as a pro wrestler for New Japan Pro Wrestling, where he last year had a long program with another MMA pioneer, Minoru Suzuki, as well as with Igor and Daniel Gracie..

Shamrock, who really put MMA on the map in San Jose, was Coker's biggest drawing card when he started Strikeforce in 2006. He was UFC's top star from 1997 to 1999 as the under-200 pound champion, before leaving the promotion after a win over Tito Ortiz.

Ortiz headlines the Sept. 19 show, challenging light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary.

Ironically, after leaving UFC, Shamrock heavily campaigned for a fight with Sakuraba in Pride, but it never happened.

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