Fedor Emelianenko is returning to U.S. soil.
The legendary Russian champion will take on ex-UFC heavyweight Matt Mitrione on Feb. 18 at Bellator 172 in San Jose, Calif. Bellator announced the match-up during its Saturday broadcast of Bellator 165, with play-by-play announcer Sean Grande revealing that Emelianenko had signed a multi-fight deal.
Emelianenko (36-4, 1 NC) is widely considered to be one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all-time. The 40-year-old Russian, nicknamed "The Last Emperor," reigned as the Pride FC champion during the heyday of the Japanese promotion, defeating a slew of notable names, including Mirko Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Mark Hunt, Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, and more.
Emelianenko retired from the fight game in 2012, but ultimately returned to the sport last year with a first-round romp over Singh Jaideep for RIZIN FF. Emelianenko fought only once in 2016, winning a controversial majority decision against former UFC light heavyweight Fabio Maldonaldo in a grueling back-and-forth affair that saw the heavyweight icon badly hurt several times.
But now Emelianenko will return to fight in the United States for the first time since 2011 against Mitrione (11-5), a 38-year-old former NFL player who has scored back-to-back knockout victories over Carl Seumanutafa and Oli Thompson since signing with Bellator in early 2016.