Fedor Emelianenko promises his fight at Bellator 290 will be his last, but unlike ex-UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, he knows he could never completely walk away from the sport.
After retiring from competition in 2020, Nurmagomedov shocked the world when he effectively cut ties with MMA to return home to Dagestan. He plans to spend more time with his family while staying invested in businesses outside of combat sports.
At 46, Emelianenko knows the time is right to hang up his own gloves, but he couldn’t possibly imagine a world where he’s not involved with the team he’s built over the years, which includes reigning Bellator light heavyweight king Vadim Nemkov and top ranked middleweight challenger Anatoly Tokov.
“Of course, I’ll be involved still because I have my team,” Emelianenko explained at the Bellator 290 pre-fight press conference. “These guys are like family to me. No matter what’s going to happen, I’ll be next to them all the time.
“I will try to do my best and help them in any way I can. All my life I was in sport. The sport is part of my life.”
Nurmagomedov spent the better part of the past two years becoming one of the most successful coaches in the sport, working with UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev, Bellator lightweight champion Usman Nurmagomedov and numerous others.
Emelianenko doesn’t judge Nurmagomedov for his decision. Both during and after his career, Nurmagomedov would often spent weeks or even months on the road, training fighters in the U.S. and traveling to fight cards all around the globe.
With a growing family at home, Nurmagomedov appears ready to focus on being a husband, father and businessman rather than a fixture at training camps and fight weeks.
“This is Khabib’s decision,” Emelianenko said. “That’s his choice. We spend so much time outside of our families because of the sport in [training] camps, sometimes you call it quits, and that’s it, especially when you have young kids and they’re waiting for you.”
As for Emelianenko, he’s always called Stary Oskol, Russia, his home. He hasn’t been pulled away from his family while building a career that’s made him the greatest heavyweight in MMA history.
Emelianenko is now ready to continue building his team and passing along the knowledge that will hopefully help them find success in their own careers.
“No matter what I’m going to do, I’m still going to share my experience, all my knowledge,” he said. “No matter what I’m going to do, I’m going to have different hobbies, whatever is going to be happening, no matter what I’m still going to be with my team because the sport is in my blood.”
As far as potentially entertaining any other ideas to continue his fighting career, Emelianenko quickly shut that down. He promised that win, lose or draw, his upcoming bout with Ryan Bader is the last one of his career.
Emelianenko said at one time, he was interested in boxing, like so many other MMA fighters have done in recent years. But he’s put that behind him now. The same goes for any future opponents like ex-UFC champion Francis Ngannou, who is currently a free agent.
“Like right now, I watch as MMA stars are competing in boxing — I did think about it like if I could do it as they do or not, I had those thoughts,” Emelianenko said. “But I want to be done with it. Completely.
“This is my last fight and all I think of is with this fight with the champion of Bellator. I want to have this fight with the champion of Bellator, Ryan Bader and be done.”