On Saturday night, the MMA community will bid adieu to one of the all-time greats.
Fedor Emelianenko will make his final walk to the cage in the main event of Bellator 290 when he challenges Ryan Bader for the heavyweight title. The event serves as the promotion’s first to air on CBS network television and takes place at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
While Emelianenko is not one to show a lot of emotion, for his final fight, the one he chooses seems to be excitement to turn the page to the next chapter of his life.
“Of course, [I’m emotional], finally I get to be done with all of that,” Emelianenko said on The MMA Hour. “Honestly, I think it has to be over because I’m 46 years old, and [to be a] veteran such as myself, I don’t want to [fight] someone way younger as a competitor. It’s getting a little bit harder for me.”
“The Last Emperor” has competed for Pride, Strikeforce, Dream, Rizin, along with Bellator and a slew of other promotions over his over two-decade pro career. Emelianenko holds wins over several of the legends of the sport — such as Mark Coleman, Kevin Randleman, Antonio Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen, and many others throughout his incredible run.
Trying to define Emelianenko’s legacy could go a number of different ways. When the man himself was asked, he wants to be known as a competitor who let his hands, feet, and overall skills do the talking for him.
“As a fighter who believes in God,” Emelianenko said. “I earned my fans in the cage, not outside the cage talking trash.
“I still have my happy moments in my career because even though I’m about to be retired, I still have my team, guys competing at the highest levels to become champions, so I still have my happy moments.”
As Emelianenko is set to walk to the cage for the 48th and final time, he was asked about the most memorable and favorite fights of his career.
“[My favorite] is the first fight with Antonio Nogueria,” Emelianenko said. “He was No. 1 at the time, he was the champion of Pride, he had the belt, and I had to activate my fighter I.Q. at 100 percent. It was very challenging on the ground, and all over. And thank God I was able to do it.
“It was very similar with Mirko Cro Cop, but just with standing.”